New York Cannabis Lawyer

Governor Hochul has ordered a comprehensive review of New York’s cannabis licensing bureaucracy to jumpstart the sluggish rollout of the legal market. This move comes in response to growing frustration from businesses, consumers, and the proliferation of unlicensed dispensaries.

The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) has been overwhelmed. Currently, only 32 staff are assigned to review the staggering 7,000 applications received, with a mere 109 licenses awarded so far.

From the perspective of a New York Cannabis lawyer, New York’s approach to cannabis licensing has been like changing the wheels on a moving bus.  One key issue is the lack of clear and consistent guidance from the OCM throughout the application process.

While Governor Hochul’s review aims to expedite application processing and business openings, it doesn’t address some past missteps.

For instance, the initial random lottery system, designed to fairly distribute the review process for the first tranche of about 1,800 applicants, appears flawed (see list here). Despite an independent audit claiming randomness, a closer look reveals over 650 duplicate entries (nearly 37%), raising concerns about bias and a lack of true randomization.

Hochul’s directive tasks the newly appointed commissioner with a thorough, at a minimum, 30-day review of the current licensing application process. The plan outlines several goals:

  • Top-Down Efficiency Review: This will focus on improving license processing times and expediting the application-to-opening timeline for cannabis businesses.
  • Enhanced Transparency: Key performance metrics and an executive-level licensing dashboard will provide a clear, timely, comprehensive picture of licensing activity for legal retailers.
  • Streamlined Process: Policy, procedure, and regulation changes will be explored within the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) framework, aiming to streamline and simplify application and review processes.
  • Actionable Plans: Three and six-month action plans will be developed with concrete initiatives, milestones, and actions to improve agency functions and establish a world-class licensing and regulatory system for New York’s cannabis industry.

While ambitious for Albany’s usual pace, Hochul’s plan doesn’t address the problems faced by the thousands of existing applicants. Only time will tell if it can truly revitalize the legal cannabis market.

If you are considering applying for a cannabis license in New York, consulting with a New York Cannabis Business Lawyer is recommended. A NY cannabis attorney can guide you through the application process, and help you to ensure your application is complete and compliant, and advocate for your interests if necessary.

**This post is for informational purposes only, For legal advice, call (212) 688-8944 or use the form below to contact a Cannabis Business Lawyer**

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