New York Approves New Retail Licenses, Cannabis Farmers Markets

New York cannabis regulators have issued more than 200 additional retail dispensary licenses and approved new rules to allow for cannabis farmers markets.
New York

New York cannabis regulators this week approved more than 200 additional retail dispensary licenses and adopted new rules that will allow cannabis growers to sell directly to consumers at farmers markets. Characterizing the moves as “bold actions to swiftly grow the state’s legal cannabis market,” the New York State Cannabis Control Board (CCB) and the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) announced the developments on Wednesday in a bid to shore up the state’s licensed marijuana operators.

At a meeting on July 19, the board approved 212 additional Conditional Adult Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses, bringing the total number issued to 463. Under an initiative spearheaded by New York Governor Kathy Hochul, the state’s first licenses for retail weed shops have been reserved for “individuals most impacted by the unjust enforcement of the prohibition of cannabis or nonprofit organizations whose services include support for the formerly incarcerated.”

“The provisional approval of today’s 212 CAURD licenses by the Cannabis Control Board marks a momentous leap forward in our pursuit of an inclusive and fair cannabis industry,” Cannabis Control Board chair Tremaine Wright said in a statement from the OCM on Wednesday. “These licensees are demonstrative of the innovation and diversity of New York state.”

The board noted that it will continue to review additional CAURD license applications for consideration on a rolling basis. To be eligible for a CAURD license, applicants were required to either have had a cannabis conviction or be the family member of someone with a cannabis conviction, among other criteria. Nonprofits with a history of serving formerly incarcerated or currently incarcerated individuals were eligible to apply for a CAURD license.

Although nearly 500 CAURD licenses have now been issued, only 20 retail dispensaries have opened and begun serving customers. The first shop opened in the closing days of 2022, fulfilling Hochul’s promise to launch the regulated cannabis market before the end of the year. But since then, only 19 more dispensaries have opened, the most recent on Tuesday in Buffalo.

Board Approves Cannabis Farmers Markets

The slow rollout of retail dispensaries has left New York’s cannabis growers with a glut of regulated cannabis while allowing the illicit market to flourish. In a bid to prop up the licensed cultivators, on Wednesday the CCB also approved new rules to allow for farmers markets known as Cannabis Grower Showcases (CGS). Under the initiative, growers will be permitted to partner with conditional adult-use retailers and processors to organize events for showcasing New York brands and selling adult-use cannabis products to consumers.

Damian Fagon, the OCM’s chief equity officer, said that his experience as a former New York hemp farmer has given him a firsthand look at “how devastating it can be when a hard-fought harvest struggles to get to market.” 

“The Cannabis Growers Showcase was informed by those lived experiences, as well as by many difficult conversations with our growers and processors who justifiably wanted more avenues to share their products with New Yorkers,” said Fagon. “This initiative will not only increase sales and retail access throughout the state, but it will also connect New York consumers directly with local cannabis farmers and homegrown brands.”

Under the initiative, each CGS event will feature a minimum of three licensed cultivators partnering with a licensed adult-use dispensary to sell regulated cannabis products to consumers. CGS events will only be allowed in cities and towns that allow for retail cannabis sales and must have a predominantly adult population. Only New Yorkers aged 21 and over will be permitted to purchase cannabis and cannabis products. 

Additionally, one processor will also be able to sell cannabis products such as edibles, beverages and vape cartridges for every three cultivators. To ensure compliance and adherence to regulations, CGS participants are required to obtain municipal approval unless the event is held at a licensed retail dispensary where cannabis sales typically occur.

Michelle Bodian, a partner at the leading cannabis and psychedelic law firm Vicente LLP, welcomed the new licenses and rules to allow for cannabis farmers markets. But she is unsure if the moves will be sufficient to secure the success of New York’s regulated cannabis market. 

“More licenses and more sales opportunities are great ideas, but until we see the details, it’s unclear whether these actions will be enough by themselves to propel the licensed cannabis industry forward,” Bodian wrote in an email to High Times. “These opportunities are also only temporary and each stage of the supply chain needs permanent solutions so they have consistent cash flows in order to have a hope of being profitable.”

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