New York awards first 36 dispensary licenses; dozens more on hold

Legislative Gazette photo by Will Oliva

The New York state Cannabis Control Board has approved the first 36 Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary licenses out of 900 applications so far. Twenty-eight of these licenses were awarded to a person previously convicted of a marijuana-related infraction and eight went to by nonprofits with a focus on helping former inmates, making them the first legal marijuana sellers of New York farm product for adult, recreational use. 

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act was enacted on March 31, 2021, resulting in the legalization of adult-use cannabis in New York. The Office of Cannabis Management, run by the Cannabis Control Board, determines any regulations or issues regarding the new industry, including medical and adult usage. 

Nearly a year later, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the Seeding Opportunity Initiative to secure the first dispensary jobs in the state for those convicted on cannabis charges during its prohibition, projecting sales before the end of 2022.

“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 during the March announcement. “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.”

According to a 2010 analysis by The American Civil Liberties Union, marijuana arrests accounted for more than half of drug arrests in the United States. There were 8.2 million cannabis related arrests from 2001 to 2010, 88 percent of them being solely for marijuana. Black people were 3.73 percent more likely to get arrested than white people though usage rates were equal. 

The New York Police Department releases quarterly reports each year for cannabis related arrests across the city’s five boroughs. In 2018 there were 2,187 Black arrests, 1,646 Hispanic, and 187 white arrests; only quarters two through four were reported that year. In 2020 there were 249 Black arrests, 156 Hispanic, and 20 white, and in 2022 there were 44 Black arrests, 46 Hispanic, and eight white.

Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary licenses and support from the Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund is a system designed to get those disproportionately convicted and their families back on their feet; because of this, the majority of licenses have gone to people of color.

“Today marks another huge win for so many advocates who fought for years to end cannabis prohibition in New York State. Last year we ended prohibition, and now we’re making sure those harmed by prohibition are launching New York’s market,” said Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander. 

There will be a total of 175 licenses, comprising 150 applicants that were either convicted or a family member of the condemned, and 25 for nonprofit applicants. The Board will review licenses and applications as they come in.

Nonprofits that participate must have supported the incarcerated in some way, have one or more justice board members, five plus full time employees, and have managed a social enterprise with either net assets or profit for at least two years. Family members must have proof of owning a profitable business.

The regulations aim to keep the youth from cannabis products, promote safety guidelines, employee training standards and business security, and to move away from harmful energy usage. In the regulation package application and retail dispensary license renewal, municipalities’ engagement in regulations, equity provisions, environmental expectations, ownership prohibition and records can all be found and are encouraged to be openly discussed in a 60-day public commenting period before any finalizations.

The regulations also include a two-tiered market model, meaning you can either be on the retail side of cannabis sales or the supply side, but not both. The purpose of the model being more job opportunities and a diversified industry. 

The regulations also prioritize individuals, minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, distressed farmers and service-disabled veterans. 

Damian Fagon, chief equity officer for the Office of Cannabis Management, says, “A fair, competitive and consumer-driven marketplace, grounded in principles of restorative justice, will not only produce broad economic prosperity across the state but ensure the resilient entrepreneurs announced today get a real shot in this emerging industry.”

Five regions of the state are still waiting to hear whether retail cannabis dispensaries will be allowed to open in the near future.

In November, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York granted a motion for a preliminary injunction against the state of New York  issuing any cannabis licenses in five of the state’s 14 geographic regions — the Finger Lakes, Central New York, Western New York,
Mid-Hudson, and Brooklyn.

The legal question at hand is how applicants must prove they have a “significant New York presence” as the legalization law was meant to help New Yorkers who had been negatively affected by marijuana prosecutions in the past. The plaintiff in that case selected those five regions as the areas for which its application would be considered.

Meanwhile the business name and regional locations of the 36 recently approved retail dispensaries are:

  •  Capital District Cannabis & Wellness Inc.,  Capital Region
  •  William Durham,  Southern Tier
  •  D-Andrews LLC,  Capital Region
  •  Nube NYC LLC,  The Bronx
  •  Gabbys Green LLC,  Queens
  •  Essential Flowers,  Capital Region
  •  Brian Stark Enterprises LLC,  Long Island
  •  Albert D Capraro,  Long Island
  •  Strain Stars LLC,  Long Island
  •  On Point Cannabis, Inc.,  Nonprofit non-NYC
  •  Smacked LLC,  Manhattan
  •  Brent L Rogers,  North Country
  •  Root 13, LLC,  Long Island
  •  Gabriel Marin,  Manhattan
  •  Housing Works Cannabis LLC,  Nonprofit NYC
  •  Florisun LLC,  Manhattan
  •  Growth Industries,  Queens
  •  The Doe Store LLC, Nonprofit NYC
  •  Carl M. Anderson III,  The Bronx
  •  Royal Leaf NY LLC,  The Bronx
  •  Keep It A 100 LLC,  Long Island
  •  CGG Enterprises Inc,  Queens
  •  CURED NY, LLC,  Mohawk Valley
  •  Kush & Kemet, LLC,  Nonprofit NYC
  •  Urban Weeds LLC,  Nonprofit NYC
  •  GOTHAM CAURD LLC,  Nonprofit NYC
  •  CWS Holdings I, LLC,  Nonprofit non-NYC
  •  EASTERN HOLDINGS 88, LLC Staten Island
  •  PLANET 51 LLC,  Manhattan
  •  Stage One Cannabis LLC,  Capital Region
  •  Suzanne M Furboter,  Queens
  •  NYCCABUDS,  Nonprofit non-NYC
  •  Anthony Crapanzano, Staten Island
  •  SAMJNY Holdings LLC, Staten Island
  •  Union Chill Cannabis NY LLC,  Southern Tier
  •  Hydro Phonics,  Long Island