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420 with CNW — New York to Evaluate Struggling Cannabis Industry as Hiccups Allow Illicit Market to Flourish

Cannabis News Wire, Media Partners

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Kathy Hochul, the governor of New York, has issued an order to reassess the state’s adult-use cannabis licensing program due to various setbacks. Those hurdles, including lawsuits and administrative challenges, have not only stood in the way of the legal marijuana market but have also led to the proliferation of illicit sellers.

The assessment aims to identify ways to expedite license processing and facilitate quicker business openings. Additionally, the assessment will conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s Office of Cannabis Management’s (OCM) organizational structure and procedures.

Hochul, a member of the Democratic Party, has openly complained about the launch process of recreational cannabis in the state, referring to it as a failure. Since the commencement of sales in 2022, just a little more than 80 legal dispensaries have been established.

The initial phase of the legalization law allocated retail licenses exclusively to nonprofit organizations and people with previous cannabis-related convictions. Additionally, it introduced a $200 million equity fund aimed at assisting applicants adversely impacted by the drug war in setting up dispensaries.

However, the licensing procedure encountered legal obstacles and implementing the equity fund faced delays, thereby impeding the legal marijuana market from thriving. Consequently, unauthorized dispensaries began to emerge throughout the state, particularly in New York City. The situation became so problematic that Hochul requested online platforms such as Yelp and Google refrain from listing these illegal establishments.

Despite efforts to regulate the market, the regulatory bodies struggled to cope with the overwhelming number of license applications. The OCM, responsible for processing licenses, has only 32 employees dedicated to reviewing applications, while it has received about 7,000 applications last year.

This decision to review the program came shortly after a senior official at the agency was sent on administrative leave after allegations from the NY Cannabis Insider that the agency had exhibited biased enforcement practices, particularly targeting a cannabis processor. Commissioner Jeanette Moy of the Office of General Services, along with other state officials,  will spend at least 30 days immersed in the agency as part of the assessment process. Together, the team will develop plans to improve the agency’s operations and set performance standards for subsequent projects.

OCM’s executive director, Chris Alexander, acknowledged the progress made in building an equitable marijuana market but emphasized the need for improvement in the agency’s operations. He expressed confidence in Moy’s leadership abilities and her capacity to steer the agency in the right direction.

The delays in having a flourishing legal marijuana market in New York is potentially stifling opportunities for local ancillary companies operating similar to Innovative Industrial Properties Inc. (NYSE: IIPR) that would have sprouted and carved out a niche for themselves in this state.

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