On November 21, New York issued the first 36 of its 175 planned dispensary licenses, bringing the massive recreational market one step closer to launching. The long-awaited licenses, which allow operators to open up to three stores each, were distributed to applicants with prior marijuana convictions, including eight nonprofit groups and 19 people of color who were selected from a pool of 903 applicants. The majority of the licenses went to New York City and Long Island residents.
The first wave of retail licenses may well be a breath of relief for the state’s 200 licensed producers who have been busy growing and harvesting cannabis since they were first permitted to grow earlier this year and reportedly have nearly 300,000 pounds of cannabis waiting to be sold to retail outlets or consumers.
The state has a planned $200 million fund to help social equity applicants, such as the 36 retail licensees with prior marijuana-related convictions and other applicants impacted by the War on Drugs, specifically BIPOC communities. The state intends to provide 150 of the 175 licensees with turnkey retail stores and loans to cover the costs of renovating the storefronts to meet regulations. The other 25 licenses will go to nonprofits.
Five regions in the state, including Brooklyn, will have to wait a little longer for retail licenses as the 63 licenses allocated for those regions were delayed due to a federal lawsuit over licensing eligibility requirements.
The state’s existing medical cannabis dispensaries will have to wait three years and pay $3 million before entering the recreational market, according to draft regulations released on November 20. Medical marijuana businesses would need to pay a $5 million wholesale licensing fee to enter the recreational market.
Regulators hope to have licensed recreational cannabis stores open by the end of 2022.
— Patrick Wagner