Deadline Passes in New York for First Round of Dispensary Licenses

Now that the deadline has passed, hundreds of applicants are awaiting word from the state.

The deadline for the first adult-use cannabis dispensary licenses in New York arrived on Monday, and now hundreds of applicants await feedback from the state.

Monday’s deadline came a month after the state’s Office of Cannabis Management officially opened the application portal on August 25.

Since then, the agency has been flooded with applications from individuals hoping for the first crack at the Empire State’s legal marijuana market.

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that roughly “500 applications had been submitted by Sunday,” adding that hundreds “of ineligible people have been turned away, but so have dozens more who did qualify and needed help navigating the state’s online portal.”

The state will award 150 licenses for the first round this fall, and those have been designated exclusively for applicants who have previously been convicted of a pot-related offense (or a family member of someone who has).

Billed as the “Seeding Opportunity Initiative,” the policy goes further than most of the so-called “social equity” provisions in other states’ marijuana laws.

“New York State is making history, launching a first-of-its-kind approach to the cannabis industry that takes a major step forward in righting the wrongs of the past,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in announcing the policy back in March. “The regulations advanced by the Cannabis Control Board today will prioritize local farmers and entrepreneurs, creating jobs and opportunity for communities that have been left out and left behind. I’m proud New York will be a national model for the safe, equitable and inclusive industry we are now building.”

New York City has taken similar steps toward enhancing opportunities in the emerging cannabis industry for individuals adversely affected by erstwhile marijuana laws.

The city’s mayor, Eric Adams, announced last month “a first-of-its-kind initiative and suite of services to support the equitable growth of the cannabis industry in New York City.”

The initiative, known as Cannabis NYC, will provide “technical assistance for cannabis license applicants, as well as other business services to take entrepreneurs beyond licensing to a thriving operation,” while also supporting “cannabis entrepreneurs and their workers as the industry develops.”

It will also collaborate with “industry stakeholders to create good jobs, successful small businesses, and sustainable economic opportunities, while also addressing the harms of cannabis prohibition.” Adams’ office said that the “first phase of Cannabis NYC will focus on ensuring that justice involved New Yorkers are able to apply for and secure retail licenses from the state.”

“Today, we light up our economy and launch Cannabis NYC — a first-of-its-kind initiative to support equitable growth of the cannabis industry in New York City,” Adams said in a press release last month. “The regulated adult-use cannabis industry is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our underserved communities that have, for too long, faced disproportionate rates of drug-related incarceration to get in on the industry on the ground floor. Cannabis NYC will plant the seeds for the economy of tomorrow by helping New Yorkers apply for licenses and understand how to open and successfully run a business, while simultaneously rolling equity into our economy by giving those who have been justice-involved and those with a cannabis conviction a chance to succeed. This is about creating good jobs, successful small businesses, and finally delivering equity to communities harmed by the ‘War on Drugs.’”

The first state-regulated recreational cannabis dispensaries in New York are not expected to open until late this year (as the earliest).

But countless small business owners there have not waited to get in on the “kush rush.” New York City in particular is teeming with illicit cannabis shops, prompting state regulators to crack down on some.

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