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NYS Issues First Cannabis Retail Dispensary Licenses, Releases Draft Regulations

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Nov 21, 2022

Cannabis Industry

New York state's Cannabis Control Board has approved 36 licenses for cannabis retailers: 28 licenses for business owners with a cannabis conviction or a family member with a cannabis conviction, and eight for nonprofit organizations. These licenses come under the state's Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) program. Under this program, according to Gothamist, New York is giving priority to people with past drug convictions and their family members for the initial dispensary licenses.

In a statement, Tremaine Wright, chair of the Cannabis Control Board, said, “Today is a monumental day for New York’s nascent cannabis industry. With the first adult-use retail dispensary licenses in the hands of businesses and eligible nonprofits, we’ve ensured the first sales will be made at dispensaries operated by those impacted by the unjust enforcement of cannabis prohibition."

According to the resolution issuing the CAURD licenses, those granted these licenses will not be allowed to begin operations “until the completion of a secondary supplemental application to the satisfaction of the Office, including completing a notification to the appropriate municipality where the conditional adult-use retail dispensary will be located.”

However, because of a recent injunction issued by a federal district court on Nov. 10, according to, the board did not issue licenses for the five geographic regions of Brooklyn, Central New York, the Finger Lakes, mid-Hudson or Western New York. Gothamist reported that those regions contain 63 of the 150 dispensaries slated for development under the CAURD program.

The federal district court granted the injunction in response to a request by a Michigan-based company, Variscite NY One, which sued the state in September. Variscite claims that the residency requirement of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act violates the “dormant commerce clause” of the U.S. Constitution—which is meant to protect interstate commerce—by discriminating against nonresident applicants. The majority owner of the company, Kenneth Gay, was convicted of a marijuana offense in his home state, not in New York, which is a requirement under the CUARD program. The company is registered in New York, but Gay does not live here.

Along with issuing the CAURD licenses, the Cannabis Control Board, along with the Office of Cannabis Management, has released long-awaited draft regulations governing New York's cannabis marketplace, reported.

In addition, in response to a request for proposals issued last May, New York state has selected 10 teams of construction and architecture firms to develop 150 recreational cannabis dispensaries across the state, Crain’s New York Business reported.

When the locations are chosen, they will be leased to the state, which will then sublease them to the retailers. There are restrictions on the locations; as with liquor stores and bars, they must be at least 500 feet away from a school or 200 feet away from a house of worship.

A set of rules released earlier this month forbids these dispensaries from selling tobacco products, food or drinks without cannabis, and any apparel or merchandise sporting a  a brand other than the dispensary’s owner.