New York’s Cannabis Control Board issued more than 100 cannabis business licenses on Friday, marking the first time regulators have issued general business licenses for the state’s troubled legal cannabis program.

The 109 licenses the CCB approved included 26 microbusinesses, 25 retail dispensaries, 24 cultivators, 13 provisional retail licenses, 12 processors and nine distributors. Before Friday, the only licensed operators held conditional licenses – aside from some medical cannabis Registered Organizations that expanded into adult-use.

“This only represents the beginning,” CCB Chair Tremaine Wright said.

After CCB members approved the licenses, OCM Chief Equity Officer Damian Fagon touted the number of licenses that went to Social and Economic Equity (SEE) applicants, especially for microbusiness licenses – which many in the industry see as the best opportunities for legacy operators to join the legal market.

Two-thirds of all cannabis business licenses issued in New York have gone to social equity applicants, Fagon said – although, until Friday, nearly all licenses were issued through conditional programs, which strictly issued licenses to applicants in specific social equity categories.

Eighty-five percent of retail licenses issued Friday went to women and minority-owned businesses, and 60% of the microbusinesses went to SEE applicants, Fagon said. Fifteen microbusiness licenses issued Friday went to people who participated in the Cannabis Compliance Training & Mentorship Program – 11 of whom were previously legacy operators – Fagon said.

Citing an industry report, Fagon said cannabis industry ownership rates are estimated to be 16% for women and 18% for minorities nationwide.

“New York just 3X’d that rate for minority/women-owned retail dispensary licensees in the state’s inaugural round of adult-use licensing,” Fagon said.

In addition to the business licenses issued, CCB members on Friday approved the states two first cannabis research licenses, gave initial approval to home grow regulations – which will now go through a 60-day public comment period – and greenlit amendments to regulatory language.

The mood at Friday’s CCB meeting was more breezy than many in the recent past, especially as many people who participated in a public comment period – which has often included critical to hostile commentary toward regulators – defended and celebrated the CCB and the state’s Office of Cannabis Management.

“Keep up the hard work, keep up the good work, and keep up the energy,” said Charles Robinson, a CAURD licensee. Robinson also took aim at Gov. Kathy Hochul for her recent comments criticizing the OCM, saying the Governor is “being pressured by her donor list.”

Other commenters thanked OCM officials for their work, and made suggestions for how the agency can improve communication with applicants who have questions.

But not everyone in New York’s cannabis industry felt as positive or sanguine as those who attended the meeting. Jayson Tantalo, co-founder of the New York Cannabis Retail Association – and retail license applicant – said the application process has him wondering if he should stop trying.

Tantalo and his wife, Britni, previously applied for a CAURD license for Flower City Dispensary, but didn’t receive one. They applied for a general license when the CAURD program was still under a court injunction. Now, Tantalo isn’t sure if they’ll be able to make it through April without a license.

“We’re on the verge of filing for bankruptcy,” Tantalo said. “We’re in a bad spot right now … this is a nightmare.”

Tantalo said he agrees with Gov. Hochul’s assessment of New York’s legal weed rollout being a disaster, and with statements that she’s considering changes in leadership for cannabis regulators.

Joe Rossi, the Cannabis Practice Group Leader at Park Strategies, said he’s happy for those who received licenses on Friday, but that the opaque nature of the OCM’s lottery and queuing system has left many applicants frustrated.

“They are irate with this lottery, they think it’s fishy,” Rossi said. “They think it’s suspect that some of the first people getting licensed are some of the last to apply – it’s just kind of a hard pill to swallow if you were one of the first people to submit an application.”

“}]] Friday’s Cannabis Control Board meeting saw more than 100 licenses issued across a spectrum of license types.  Read More