Court lifts injunction preventing marijuana retail licensing in New York

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A federal court has opened up retail licensing in Brooklyn and other areas of New York state after an injunction halted licensing for dozens of applicants for months.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit on Tuesday lifted a temporary restraining order in four of five regions of the state, allowing regulators to start issuing social equity licenses in Brooklyn, Central New York, Mid-Hudson and Western New York.

The temporary restraining order is still in force in the Finger Lakes region, where Michigan resident Kenneth Gay sued the state Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) on behalf of his marijuana company, Variscite.

The suit alleges that the requirement that cannabis retail applicants have both a “significant presence” in New York and a criminal record for a marijuana-related conviction under state law creates irreparable damage to the company.

It’s one of several marijuana social equity programs Gay is challenging across the country, including Los Angeles.

“This is a historic win for equity and restorative justice and provides momentum for OCM to defeat further constitutional challenges to its equity programming,” New York attorney Lauren Rudick told MJBizDaily.

In November, a federal judge granted Variscite a temporary restraining order that blocked adult-use cannabis licensing in the five regions.

Would-be Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CUARD) license holders in New York must choose from among 14 geographical regions across the state when submitting their applications.

“This is great news and a huge step in the right direction for justice involved individuals who are anticipating licenses,” said Jesse Campoamor, a social equity advocate and chief architect of New York’s landmark cannabis legislation.

“I am optimistic that the Office of Cannabis Management will take advantage of the court’s decision of unlocking more licenses.”

In early March, New York regulators doubled the number of available retail licenses for adult-use social equity applicants to 300.

The OCM is expected to announce more license winners at its April 3 meeting, according to media reports.

The temporary restraining order helped slow the launch of adult-use sales in the state, where only five marijuana retailers have opened so far.

That number will grow to six on Thursday when Good Grades is expected to open in Queens.

Good Grades is the first female-owned adult-use store to open with the help of the state’s Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul noted in a news release.

Chris Casacchia can be reached at