Federal judge bars state from issuing some cannabis licenses in New York

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ALBANY, NY (WENY) – As the state prepares to begin adult recreational marijuana sales by the end of this year, Brooklyn, the Finger Lakes, and other upstate New York regions are facing legal challenges over retail cannabis licenses.

On Thursday Nov. 10, a federal judge halted the state from issuing licenses for recreational marijuana while a resolution pends from a lawsuit filed by a Michigan based cannabis company challenging the license selection requirements.

The lawsuit argues the state’s selection process favors New York residents over out-of-state residents and violates constitutional commerce protections. And the judges ruling affects 63 of the 150 licenses the state had planned to issue.

Michael Cooper, Co-Chair of Policy for the National Cannabis Industry Association, said this litigation highlights the importance of social equity provisions and implementing federal cannabis reform.

“These lawsuits are about federal protections and about the interplay between federal and state law. And so, the best way to fix this in our view is to have effective federal cannabis reform that clears the way for these markets to operate and to operate in a diverse and equitable fashion,” he said.

The New York State Office of Cannabis Management stated in an email to WENY they could not comment on pending legislation but they are “committed to the goals of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act of 2021 including those impacted by the state’s enforcement of cannabis prohibition in the market.”

They added they are also committed to getting New York’s cannabis supply chain fully operational.

Some associations said the cannabis industry is prepared to handle litigation like this.

“We see it as a matter of procedure and not really necessarily an indication of the cases merit,” said Dan Livingston, Executive Director of the Cannabis Association of New York.

Livingston added lawsuits are typical during a roll-out of state cannabis legalization. He also emphasized that this litigation doesn’t stop the New York State cannabis market from opening as it only impacts five of the fourteen regions.


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