New York Cannabis: A Plea to the Office of Cannabis Management

It has now been over one week since New York’s Cannabis Control Board (CCB) and Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) announced that the general adult-use cannabis license application portal will open on October 4, 2023. For those counting at home, that is less than two weeks away. We, like the many parties with a vested interest in the opening of the application portal, wait with bated breadth for the OCM to provide any news on the myriad open items that are fundamental to the adult-use application process.

People have invested life-changing amounts of time and money in planning to apply for these licenses. It feels like we are still in the dark on so many vital issues with a little over two months before the application portal is scheduled to close (that’s one month for retail dispensary applicants with secured real estate). This writing serves as a public plea that the OCM at least begin providing information on the crucial topics below.

When is the general adult-use cannabis application portal actually opening?

Just about every attorney in New York’s cannabis space immediately noted that the CCB and OCM’s September 12, 2023 announcement, that the application portal is opening on October 4, 2023, appears to violate the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA). Put simply, the MRTA required at least 30 days notice prior to opening the application portal. For those counting at home, there are less than 30 days between September 12, 2023 and October 4, 2023.

The always excellent Brad Racino reported the OCM’s response, which took the position that the OCM provided notice of the application opening date “as far back as the July 19 Cannabis Control Board Meeting” and that the timing is “fully compliant with the letter and spirit” of the MRTA. We are not familiar with any official OCM announcement that the application portal was to open on October 4, 2023 before September 12, 2023.

It would be really helpful to know when the application portal is actually opening.

Can we have those forms, please?

We’ve already discussed the missing Notification to Municipality form that is required for any retail dispensary applicants with secured real estate. It would also be pretty helpful to have the official True Party in Interest form. As is the case with the Notification to Municipality, the only available iteration of the form is specific to CAURD applicants.

What about the Guidance and FAQs for adult-use cannabis applications?

During the September 12, 2023 board meeting, there was repeated mention of the OCM releasing guidance and FAQs for prospective applicants. The OCM’s guidance and FAQs were immensely helpful during the CAURD application process, especially given the complexity and variety of license types and application processes.

To date, no guidance or FAQs have been published and, given the rapidly approaching application deadlines, we’d love to receive some guidance from the OCM.

How and who is the OCM prioritizing as social and economic equity applicants?

Kind of buried in the September 12, 2023 presentation is that “prioritization for adult use cannabis licenses will be afforded to applicants qualifying as extra priority, individuals from a CDI, distressed farmers, and service disabled veterans.” The OCM noted that it is “unable to extend the same prioritization as groups qualifying on the basis of gender or race.” Those quotes are from the published transcript from the CCB meeting (h/t to Aleece Burgio).

Of course, the MRTA is very clear that only one category of social and economic equity applicants is entitled to “extra priority”: individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition, who have a below median income (there’s some specific language regarding the percentage) and who have or are related to someone who has a marijuana-related offence prior to the enactment of the MRTA (again, there are some specifics).

There is no statutory mention of distressed farmers and service disabled veterans receiving “extra priority.” The roll-out of New York’s adult-use cannabis market is already a pretty litigious situation; the OCM’s deviation from the MRTA with respect to extra priority seems to invite yet another legal challenge should the OCM not “clarify” in advance of opening the application portal.

We are sure that we are missing some other critical issues, not because they aren’t important but because with this many moving parts and so much missing information, it’s hard to capture it all in one post. But we invite you to list any other issues you see in the comments to this post (or in LinkedIn or any other social media).

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Licensing, New York