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New York regulators set to approve 110 new cannabis licenses Friday

New York regulators set to approve 110 new cannabis licenses Friday

While the New York recreational marijuana market launch has been under fire in recent weeks – including from Gov. Kathy Hochul herself – regulators are set to greatly expand the industry with the approval of 110 new business licenses at a Friday meeting.

On the agenda
On the agenda for the New York Cannabis Control Board – which is set to meet at 11 a.m. Friday in Troy – are approvals for 24 cultivators, nine distributors, 27 microbusinesses, 12 processors and 38 retailers.

The CCB meeting is the first since another scheduled for Jan. 24 was canceled at the last minute, reportedly at the behest of an irate governor, who later told The Buffalo News editorial board she was expecting the board to approve around 400 retail licenses. The CCB agenda for the canceled January meeting had just five cultivators, two microbusinesses, three processors, and three retailers set to be approved, making this week’s meeting an enormously different market expansion.

But there are still likely to be hiccups, attorney Neil Willner said after looking at the Friday CCB agenda.

Too close for comfort
For one thing, although all 38 retailers up for licensure on Friday are from the November 2023 cohort of applicants – which were all required to have retail locations locked down prior to filing their license applications – 13 of them are slated to only be awarded “provisional” licenses, meaning their proposed locations are too close to other legal cannabis shops, violating the setback rules for legal marijuana stores.

Under New York regulations, each dispensary has to be at least 1,000 feet away from another dispensary in any municipality with more than 20,000 residents – including New York City – while dispensaries in towns with less than 20,000 residents must be 2,000 feet apart.

That leaves the 13 provisional retailers with a choice: Either try to find a new site for a dispensary, or wait for the CCB and the Office of Cannabis Management to create an appeals process for licensees to formally request a waiver or exemption from the zoning rules.

The proximity problem is an issue that’s already cropped up in New York, and likely will remain one for a lot of the retailers who are yet to win permits.

“It’s going to be difficult. Real estate has been one of the most difficult issues facing retailers throughout this process,” Willner said. “There is no formal appeals process yet. … As an industry, we don’t know what that’s going to look like.”

The good news, Willner said, is that the 13 will have time to figure it out.

“Because they’re provisional licensees, they’ll have 12 months to find a location, which is certainly more than enough time to try and accomplish both, to start an appeal and to start looking for new property,” he said.

The OCM plans to issue 250 retail licenses and 110 microbusiness permits for the November cohort of applicants, officials announced last month. They plan to award another 450 retail permits for those who applied by Dec. 18, according to court records in one of the lawsuits the OCM has been battling.

The agency received over 4,300 retail applications last year, along with another 1,300 for microbusinesses, about 530 for processors, 365 for cultivators and 350 for distributors, for a total of just under 7,000 business license requests.

As of Feb. 9, there are just 65 legal recreational marijuana retailers operating in New York, according to the OCM.

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