Today New York’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) convened the Cannabis Control Board’s (CCB) April meeting, awarding another 99 retail licenses. This is the first batch of Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses granted since January of this year, and the third from the state overall, bringing the total to 165 so far.
New York's Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) Program
Described by CCB Chair Tremaine Wright as “one of the happiest meetings we’re having all year,” the gathering was marked by applause and cheers from license winners and their families. New York’s CAURD program helps the state prioritize licensing social equity applicants and people from communities harmed by the War on Drugs into the legal cannabis sector. Only justice-involved entrepreneurs with prior cannabis convictions (and their direct family members) and nonprofit organizations are eligible for this retail license, and during the time the application portal was open in late 2022, the OCM received over 900 submissions.
Which New York Regions Will Get CAURD Licensed Retailers?
The regional breakdown of the latest group of issued licenses shows how the cannabis industry will be making its way across the state.
- Bronx: 9
- Brooklyn: 3
- Capital Region: 5
- Central Region: 1
- Long Island: 23
- Manhattan: 21
- Mid-Hudson Region: 5
- Mohawk Valley: 2
- North Country Region: 4
- Queens: 17
- Staten Island: 3
- Western Region: 4
Thirteen of these newest license winners come from zones that had been previously locked by a federal court injunction. In November 2022, a federal judge ruled in the case Variscite NY One, Inc. v State of New York et al that the OCM would be stopped from issuing any licenses in the Finger Lakes, Central New York, Western New York, Mid-Hudson, and Brooklyn regions. The case stemmed from a Michigan-based entrepreneur’s complaint that the CAURD program’s New York residency requirements were unconstitutional, and the lower court had agreed. However, on March 28, a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit lifted the injunction for all regions except the Finger Lakes.
Governor Kathy Hochul had celebrated the decision, saying in a statement, “For the first time, New Yorkers in nearly every region of the state will have access to safer, high-quality, adult-use cannabis products. I am committed to ensuring New York continues to lead the nation in our safe and equitable approach to the cannabis market.”
Expanding CAURD, Limiting Unlicensed Shops: New York's Office of Cannabis Management on Enforcement
At the beginning of March, the OCM had announced that it would be expanding its initial pool of 150 CAURD licenses to 300. The agency has faced some criticism over the slow-seeming pacing of rolling out stores. Currently only a handful of CAURD stores are actually operating: Housing Works Cannabis Co, Smacked Village, and Union Square Travel Agency in Manhattan; Good Grades in Queens (the state’s first woman-owned retailer); Just Breathe. in Binghamton; and Upstate Canna Co. in Schenectady.
OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander cited the need for “additional enforcement” in ensuring the success of legal dispensaries against the thousands of illicit shops that have emerged across the state, including over 1500 in New York City. He referred to Governor Hochul’s recent legislation that allows the agency and the state’s Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) to crack down on unlicensed activity and could result in fines of up to $10,000 per day to any establishment found in violation of the law.
Encouraging those in front of him who chose to enter the legal industry, Alexander declared, “We will continue to make enforcement a priority. We understand that in order for you all to be successful, we must tamp down that effort, that activity, and that remains a key priority for this office.”
What's Next For New York's Cannabis Industry Regulations?
In addition to the CCB’s approval of the 99 CAURD licenses, the board confirmed a lab testing permit for Certainty Analytical Labs in Rochester, bringing the state’s total number of cannabis testing labs to 13. The board also extended the Emergency Industry Regulations for the OCM by 120 days, which will grant the agency more time to work on the rules.
According to the OCM’s Director of Policy John Kagia, revised regulations for New York’s legal cannabis industry will be presented at the next CCB meeting on May 11th. Assuming those rules meet approval, they will then commence one more 45-day public comment period.
Kagia explained, “The goal here is to very expeditiously adopt the final adult-use regulations so the (OCM) can open the application period for adult-use licenses by the end of the year.”
What do you think about New York's CAURD program and the state's cannabis regulations? Tell us about it - reach out at @honeysucklemagazine on Instagram and @HoneysuckleMag on Twitter!
For more information about New York State's cannabis industry, visit cannabis.ny.gov.
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Featured image: (C) Mike Petrucci @mikepetrucci