The clock may be ticking on 2022, but New York is still on track to open its first recreational marijuana dispensaries by the end of the year.
That is according to the state’s Democratic governor, Kathy Hochul, who said Wednesday that she expects the first official cannabis retailers to open their doors before 2023.
“We expect the first 20 dispensaries to be open by the end of this year,” Hochul told the Advance Media New York editorial board. “And then every month or so, another 20. So, we’re not going to just jam it out there. It’s going to work and be successful.”
The application period for the first round of adult-use cannabis dispensary licenses just ended last week after it began on August 25.
State officials said that around 500 applications had been submitted, and that hundreds of other applicants had been deemed ineligible and were rejected.
The first round of dispensary licenses will be awarded to individuals who have previously been convicted of a pot-related offense, or a family member of someone who has, a policy that was announced by Hochul back in March.
“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,” Hochul said in the announcement at the time. “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.”
In her interview with the editorial board on Wednesday, Hochul echoed those sentiments, saying that New York is striving to be “a model for the rest of the nation – especially with our desire to make sure that people who’ve been affected by the criminal justice system adversely … have the opportunity to work in this area.”
Hochul, who is heavily favored to win re-election this year, took over as governor in August 2021 following the resignation of Andrew Cuomo, who stepped down as New York governor amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
It was Cuomo who signed the bill legalizing recreational pot for adults in March 2021, but the state’s cannabis program did not begin to take shape until Hochul took office.
Within a month of taking over last year, Hochul completed two key appointments to the state’s Office of Cannabis Management, the agency charged with overseeing and regulating New York’s cannabis industry.
“New York’s cannabis industry has stalled for far too long—I am making important appointments to set the Office of Cannabis Management up for success so they can hit the ground running,” Hochul said at the time.
In her interview with the editorial board this week, Hochul touted her efforts to get the state-regulated marijuana program off the ground.
“Talk about the rollout being jammed up,” she said. “When I became governor, nothing had happened. Nothing. It was shut down because there was a battle between the administration and the legislature over who would be the executive director and the chairs of the cannabis review boards,” she said. “So, I was given a lot of credit because within one week, I named people. I got things going. So, when I speak to people about being part of this industry, the first thing they say is ‘thank you.’ Because otherwise we could still be waiting and waiting and waiting, even for the most basic steps to be taken. So we’ve been moving along quickly.”