Lawsuit Leads to License Block (Again)

Earlier this month, four New York veterans sued Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration, arguing that the state favors convicted drug felons over disabled vets when it comes to awarding conditional adult-use retail dispensary (CAURD) licenses. Now, a judge has halted new cannabis licenses. This new roadblock comes just two months after the last injunction ended in the Finger Lakes Region.

New York’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act – approved in 2021 – specifically lists disabled vets as one of five priority “social and economic equity” groups to receive CAURD licenses. Veterans are listed along with convicted felons of marijuana-related crimes, women and minority-owned businesses and “distressed farmers.” However, the lawsuit alleges that the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) and Cannabis Control Board failed to adhere to the Act by excluding disabled vets from the first round of awards.

“It feels like we were used to get a law passed — a good law, one that helps a lot of people, as well as the state,” stated Carmine Fiore, one of the plaintiffs, in an April interview with the New York Post. “Then, once it was passed, we were cast aside for another agenda.”

On Aug. 8, New York Supreme Court Justice Kevin Bryant issued a temporary injunction, stopping the state from issuing new CAURD licenses and from approving new dispensaries to open. The following day, the OCM issued a statement: “The Office of Cannabis Management is aware of the Court’s Order and is adhering to its requirements. We are actively communicating with CAURD applicants and provisionally approved licensees to inform them of the impact of the Court’s order on OCM operations.”

A hearing was held Friday, August 11 in Ulster County, during which Judge Bryant heard arguments. Outside the courthouse, cannabis business owners participated in a rally to urge Judge Bryant to toss the lawsuit, according to the Democrat & Chronicle. However, the judge withheld his ruling, thus extending the injunction for two weeks; he requested that the attorneys and their clients compromise on a solution rather than hold out for an outright legal win. Another court date has been set for Friday, August 25.

The injunction further hinders New York’s legal cannabis market. As it is, New York is not on track to make the predicted $56 million in legal weed sales in its first year, according to the New York Post. That estimate, made by Gov. Hochul earlier this year, is just a fraction of what other states have made, according to a report from New York medical marijuana operators. “The current state of the cannabis market in New York is an unmitigated disaster,” said the Rev. Kirsten Foy of the Coalition for Access to Regulated & Safe Cannabis.

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