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When will New York start legal weed sales? Don’t hold your breath

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

By Calvin Stovall

New York’s Office of Cannabis Management denied claims that it is pushing opening day back. But it’s still not clear if adult-use sales will begin before 2022 ends, as promised.

This week, reported that New York’s timeline for legal weed sales has shifted in a major way.” A spokesperson for the state’s cannabis office responded online:

“I reject this assertion that there have been major shifts in the timeline for cannabis sales in NY… Proposed regulations for future license types will come out in the next few months, applicants will be able to apply for them starting in 2023, but this headline is talking about sales, which are still set to happen in 2022.” – Aaron Ghitelman, New York Office of Cannabis Management via Twitter

The report was based on public comments by Chris Alexander, the executive director of the state’s cannabis board. Alexander said unlicensed growers should not harvest their next crop with plans to sell to New York’s incoming retailers quite yet.

“Middle of next year you’ll see those applications open for cultivation, for processing, and to do the activities you just laid out,” Alexander said at an event celebrating the opening of the application window for New York’s Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses.

Here’s why some think his answer conflicts with past statements from fellow board members, and why it could suggest that out of state corporations will have a head start over New York’s social equity applicants.

Adult-use cultivator and processor licenses will come mid-2023

New Yorkers are ready to grow, sell, and smoke stains like Rainbow Runtz from licensed dealers. But opening day is still out of sight.

In October 2021, Cannabis Control Board members including Chair Tremaine Wright said the state’s cannabis marketplace would open within 18 months. But nearly a year later, it’s clear that many of the dispensary and processor licenses needed for a full scale launch won’t even be available until mid-2023.

New Yorkers impacted by the Drug War are still submitting applications, and the board has not begun reviewing them. Current medical providers are reportedly balking at a proposed $20-million fee to expand into the adult-use market. And illicit operators are simply selling in the open, hoping to avoid wrist slaps from the state or its cannabis board, which could jeopardize their ability to get licensed in the future.

So the question remains: Where are New Yorkers supposed to be getting all of the weed that Mayor Eric Adams wants everyone to “light up, and spend some money” on?

The state has only approved 242 conditional cultivator licenses so far, and 15 conditional processing licenses. These conditional licenses are limited to a very select portion of the population, and many conditional license holders are struggling to stay afloat within the state’s strict guidelines without a clear start date they can plan to exhale on.

The Office of Cannabis Management has no date set

Leafly contacted New York’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) on September 8 to seek further clarity. But things are still up in the air.

There is no projected date for adult-use sales. They’re accepting CAURD applications for now (here’s how to apply). And they will start reviewing applications soon. The OCM said it hopes to get things launched by early 2023. But added that first stores could still open before the end of 2022. The office did not clarify which license holders are on the 2022 timetable.

New York smokes more weed than any other city in the world. So the state can’t afford to fumble the debut of this multi- billion-dollar market due to lack of supply. Here’s where multi-state operators (MSOs) like Curaleaf and Columbia Care come into the picture.

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