Ben Gilbert, 38, smokes marijuana in lower Manhattan outside the first legal dispensary for recreational marijuana in New York on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. New York is set to dramatically expand its legal weed market and issue more than 1,000 new licenses starting early next year, with a priority on retail. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

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New York cannabis regulators took their first first step toward opening up new recreational dispensaries on Friday after lawsuits tied up the market since August. Sellers say it’s a step in the right direction but the market still has a long way to go until it’s populated by legal sellers.

The state’s Cannabis Control Board (CCB) greenlit six of the state’s 10 licensed medical marijuana companies to begin adult-use cannabis sales on Dec. 29 — a year after recreational sales first began. The move came at a meeting of the control board in Albany on Dec. 8 — the first since the state settled two lawsuits that have frozen the growth of its marijuana industry since August.

“Slowly we are now going to have new retail options. It’s a big help but there are still huge problems ahead for the marketplace and for adults not having to walk by 10 or 15 illicit shops on their way to one licensed one,” said Adam Goers, an executive of The Cannabist Company, one of the medical marijuana businesses that was granted the license.

The news that several multi-state medical manufacturers and retailers can now open dispensaries on Dec. 29 marks the entrance for the bigger medical companies into the state’s marijuana market and a considerable policy shift. But it’s unclear whether the licenses will lead new dispensaries to open early next year.

According to Goers, not all of the medical licensees are going to transition their business model and open recreational stores right away. Goers’ own business for instance, The Cannabist Company — a medical marijuana manufacturer and retailer formerly known as Columbia Care NY — is going to wait to see how the market changes before it chooses one of its existing medical marijuana locations to open as a recreational dispensary. The company has medical stores in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Riverhead in Long Island and Rochester.

Jeremy Rivera made his first sale during the grand opening of his licensed cannabis dispensary in Astoria.Photo by Dean Moses

The reason, Goers said, is that state rules dictate the medical companies have to pay an initial cost of $5 million to be able to start selling adult-use cannabis at one of their brick-and-mortar stores. Months down the road, the medical companies will be able to open a second and third dispensary for another $5 million payment, with another $10 million due later on in the process. 

Goers estimated that only “a couple” of the six medical companies would jump in the market right away.

“We can begin sales whenever we write that $5 million check,” he said. “Maybe a couple will enter right away, and some others like us will probably be watching it very closely to make that transition.”

For now though, the company is going to stick to manufacturing its products for the adult use market, which it will be able to sell at one of the state’s several dozen existing dispensaries.

The business’ sense of caution diverges somewhat from what CCB Chairwoman Tremaine Wright reportedly expressed at the meeting last week when she said that Columbia Care intends to start recreational sales at its Brooklyn dispensary. That may come down the road, just not immediately.

According to the Green Market Report’s coverage, Wright also said that of the newly granted retail licensees Curaleaf intends to open adult-use sales at its Newburgh dispensary, Etain at its White Plains dispensary, NYCANNA at its Farmingdale dispensary and PharmaCann at its Albany dispensary. 

There are currently over 30 dispensaries open now, according to the Office of Cannabis Management. The deadline for companies that haven’t secured a store location to apply for a recreational cannabis dispensary licenses is Dec 18. OCM said that it would likely announce the next round of license recipients in January or February. 

 New York cannabis regulators took their first first step toward opening up new recreational dispensaries on Friday after lawsuits tied up the market since  Read More