New York issues first licenses for legal pot dispensaries

NEW YORK — New York issued its first 36 cannabis dispensary licenses on Monday, taking a monumental step in establishing a legal — and lucrative — market for recreational marijuana.

The licenses approved by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission were the first of 175 state plans to be issued, including many in the first round reserved for applicants with prior convictions for marijuana-related offenses.

Eight nonprofit groups were among the 36 licensees granted on Monday.

Some clinics, selected from more than 900 applicants, should open by the end of the year.

New York has also earmarked a $200 million public-private fund to help “social equity” seekers repair the ravages of the war on drugs, especially in communities of color.

“Today is a monumental day for New York’s nascent cannabis industry. With the first adult retail dispensary licenses in the hands of eligible businesses and nonprofits, we are assured that first sales will be made at dispensaries operated by those affected by the unfair enforcement of cannabis prohibition,” said Tremaine Wright, who chairs the Cannabis Control Commission.

A court ruling earlier this month delayed the board from approving dispensaries in parts of the state amid a legal dispute over licensing criteria. Nonetheless, officials said they would issue the remaining licenses as quickly as possible.

With the first licenses now issued, it remained to be seen whether officials would step up efforts to tackle dozens of unlicensed dispensaries opened last year by people who ignored licensing requirements.

New York legalized the recreational use of marijuana in March 2021, but is still in the process of allowing people to sell it.

The Cannabis Council has also put forward regulatory proposals for the sale of marijuana, emphasizing public health, product quality and safety and preventing under-21s from buying cannabis.

ABC News

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