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Judge Blocks New Cannabis Licenses in New York

Temporary halt follows lawsuit by veterans challenging priority licensing program.

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Only 23 legal stores are currently open across the state while illegal stores remain widespread. PHOTO COURTESY NYS OCM

New York has halted the issuance of new licenses for cannabis stores after a judge’s decision on Monday prevented regulators from advancing with retail licensing.

This ruling poses a setback to New York’s goal of ensuring that individuals who faced repercussions due to past marijuana enforcement can benefit from its legalization.

The judge supported a group of veterans with service-related disabilities who filed a lawsuit claiming that a priority licensing program for entrepreneurs affected by past marijuana enforcement violated the constitution, reports the NY Post.

As a result of this ruling, state cannabis regulatory agencies are prohibited from issuing new licenses and granting operational approval to those already licensed and working on opening dispensaries.

Judge Kevin Bryant of the New York Supreme Court ruled that without a court order to halt the cannabis licensing program, there would be immediate and irreparable harm if the program continued.

New York’s cannabis regulators aimed to launch a recreational marijuana market with a licensing program that gave priority to dispensary licenses for entrepreneurs with prior cannabis convictions or immediate family members with such convictions. Nonprofits aiding formerly incarcerated populations also qualified for these licenses.

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However, this program encountered difficulties, with fewer than 20 storefronts operational nearly 2.5 years after marijuana was initially legalized, leading to a thriving unlicensed market.

Entrepreneurs, including veterans involved in the lawsuit, were frustrated by the delay. They were supposed to receive priority licensing under the 2021 legalization law, which prioritizes “social and economic equity applicants” such as those from disproportionately impacted communities, minority-owned and women-owned businesses, and service-disabled veterans.

 

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