Recreational cannabis dispensary owners seek guidance as shop remain shuttered
Recreational cannabis dispensary owners who were blocked from opening because of lawsuits against the state said Tuesday they have been seeking guidance from the state's Office of Cannabis Management - but the agency is not returning their calls.
"We're still not open. Just to make that clear," Woodbury dispensary owner Zymia Lewis reminded the Cannabis Control Board at the body's monthly meeting.
Zymia and a handful of others said they have emailed and called the OCM several times seeking clarity for dispensary owners who were licensed under the Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) program who are now unable to open their shops.
The CAURD program, which has been wrapped up in lawsuits for much of 2023, allowed qualified applicants with cannabis-related convictions on their records to receive dispensary licenses first, while others would have to wait for at least one more year to apply.
A group of cannabis operators, including medical dispensary operators aiming to convert their operations to also sell recreational cannabis, sued earlier this year. A group of disabled veterans also sued, claiming the CAURD program is unconstitutional.
The veterans' lawsuit led to an injunction that blocked more than 400 dispensaries from opening.
"We've been under this injunction for two months to not have had a meeting at all for CAURD," Lewis said in her testimony.
"I think if we had more concrete answers as to how CAURDs recipients should proceed," she said later in a Zoom interview. "Just speaking to CAURDs in a general email would be appreciated."
After receiving numerous confused inquiries from current licensees, the OCM is holding a series of informational sessions where licensees can directly ask experts and state officials their questions.
"It's always important for us to hear from you," Cannabis Control Board Chairperson Tremaine Wright told the licensees during the meeting, "Bring up some wide concerns, and also to give us some insight into some of the things that might be missing for us."
The OCM is still planning to award half of the first 1,000 licenses to applicants who have been involved with the justice system because of cannabis and other groups.
Independent experts and experts working for the state have said the New York state recreational cannabis market may be able to handle up to 2,000 dispensaries.
The OCM did not respond to News 12's numerous requests for additional comment.
The informational sessions tour is underway, with a stop in Newburgh on Nov. 8.
Lewis said she will continue to attend Cannabis Control Board meetings and attend hearings to continue to remind the OCM "we're still here."
She also plans on testifying at an oversight hearing to be held by State Senate Investigations Committee on Oct. 30.