NY Cannabis Control Board approves licensing for cultivation, selling of marijuana
The New York Cannabis Control Board on Tuesday unanimously approved new regulations, opening recreational license applications to all applicants, including larger corporations, on Oct. 4.
Administrators with the State Office of Cannabis Management's original plan was to process applications of those with cannabis-related convictions ahead of applications of larger, established companies, which would have had to wait three years for their licenses.
Then came lawsuits, including one filed on behalf of a group of disabled veterans challenging the constitutionality of the preferential licensing system.
The veterans' lawsuit led to an injunction granted by state Supreme Court Judge Kevin Bryant in August, which froze the licensing process for more than 400 early applicants.
"Our target opening date was Aug. 22," license holder Zymia Lewis said in her testimony at the CCB's meeting Tuesday morning in Albany. "We gave everything we have. We have nothing left. We have absolutely nothing."
Lewis and her fiance Kareem Haynesworth have been paying rent at their Woodbury location for the past year, and even put their child's college fund into the business.
Lewis said she is less concerned about competition from larger companies expanding their medical cannabis locations into recreational dispensaries than she is about the injunction that is still keeping the family from opening their shop in Orange County's tourist mecca.
"When people Google it, they always want to go to the big names, vs. going to the small names, but I don't think we'll be that much affected," Lewis said during a Zoom interview after the CCB meeting. "I think we'll be successful at least before they (large companies) get in the market."
Attorney Wei Hu, who represents 14 small dispensaries, is hoping that since the market is opening to all applicants, Judge Bryant will dismiss the disabled veterans' lawsuit, effectively lifting the injunction.
That way, Hu said, the 400+ dispensary owners who are already licensed can start right away, as larger companies are just beginning the arduous licensing process.
"With first-mover advantage, you have clients, you build up relationships, you establish yourself," Hu explained. "I think it's much easier to be an established operator than a new entrant."
Under the OCM's new policy, larger companies will still have to pay fees totaling millions of dollars to enter the marketplace early.
Attorney David Feuerstein -- who represents companies who are currently suing the state over the original social-justice-oriented licensing system, said in an email that "allowing them into the adult use market will actually provide funding that will help these smaller dispensaries operate."
Judge Bryant will review the CCB's decision on Friday in state Supreme Court in Kingston on Friday and may revisit the injunction.