New York Eases Restrictions on Cannabis Dispensary Locations

New York cannabis regulators announced last week that a rule requiring the state’s first cannabis dispensary owners to accept a business location assigned by the state has been rescinded.
New York

The New York Office of Cannabis Management eased restrictions on the locations for the state’s first cannabis dispensaries last week, allowing the business owners to choose the site for their retail operation. Before the change, the new business owners were required to accept a retail location assigned by a government agency.

The change, which comes only three weeks before licensed retail sales of recreational marijuana are slated to begin in New York, gives new retail cannabis dispensaries licensees flexibility in choosing the location for the business provided they obtain state approval. The new policy is also expected to ease the burden placed on the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), the agency tasked with providing new cannabis business owners with access to financing and real estate to launch their businesses. The change was announced by the state’s cannabis regulatory agency, the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), in a statement on Friday, according to a report from The New York Times.

Last month, the OCM announced that the first three dozen Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses had been issued to 28 individuals with past marijuana-related convictions and eight nonprofit organizations serving people with past arrests or convictions for marijuana offenses. Under the plan, the licensees are eligible for a turnkey dispensary site to locate their businesses. But so far, DASNY has struggled to secure and prepare the retail storefronts needed to launch the 175 cannabis dispensaries planned under the CAURD license program, leading to doubts that retail sales will begin before the end of the year.

Damian Fagon, the OCM’s chief equity officer, said that the agency made the change after conferring with the first business owners awarded licenses, many of whom expressed a desire for more flexibility with the site for their shops. The decision also alleviates pressure on DASNY to rush the leasing process.

“It’s just about adapting to changing circumstances, and making this thing work for New York,” Fagon said, adding: “People are ready to make some money, and we’re ready to make that as easy as possible for them.”

Agency Signs First Lease For Dispensary Storefront

At a meeting of DASNY held last week, president and CEO Reuben R. McDaniel III announced the agency had signed its first lease for a retail cannabis dispensary site for a property in Harlem, only steps away from the famed Apollo Theater. 

“I’m pleased to announce that last night we signed our first lease,” he told the DASNY board. “For those of you familiar with Harlem, you can stand at the Apollo and throw a baseball right across the street.”

McDaniel said that the design team has finished preliminary plans for the 2,800-square-foot site and noted that construction would begin once final plans have been approved by DASNY. He did not reveal which licensee would be awarded the business location but noted that the agency hopes to sign more leases by the end of the year.

Keshawn Warner is one of the business owners awarded a retail cannabis dispensary license under the CAURD program. Warner, who owns a drugstore called The Pharmacy in Harlem with his wife, said he has not yet been notified where his dispensary will be located. He is also waiting for official notification of rules governing cannabis delivery operations before his storefront operation is up and running. 

“Location, you obviously have your desires,” Warner told online New York news source The City. “Most important to me is the effectiveness of the roll-out.” 

“If it is in Harlem, it would be great for Harlem,” he added. “It’s a moment in history.”

Vladimir Bautista, the chief executive of New York lifestyle and events brand Happy Munkey and an applicant for a retail license, said that the new OCM policy allowing cannabis dispensary owners to choose a location for their business will give them more flexibility to begin operations in a timely manner.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “If we were just counting on the state, that limited us.”

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