NY on pace for 37 operating adult-use cannabis stores by year-end, gov says

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A flurry of potential December grand openings means New York is on track to have 37 adult-use cannabis stores in operation statewide by the end of the year, Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

As many as 12 recreational marijuana retailers across the state could start sales this month, Hochul said Thursday, including the first legal retailer in Brooklyn, New York City’s most populous borough.

That’s still a far cry from the retail density seen in other states.

New Jersey, for example, has 65 adult-use stores open for business, according to state data.

Meanwhile, multistate operators with medical marijuana licenses in New York on Dec. 8 received the green light from state regulators to begin adult-use sales Dec. 29.

Yet, it remains to be seen how legal stores will be able to contend with a pervasive illicit market that’s taken root in the time between the state legalizing marijuana in March 2021 and the first legal store opening in December 2022.

Estimates of the number of unlicensed marijuana sellers in operation in New York City alone range from 1,500 to as many as 8,000.

Despite promises to create what Hochul on Thursday called “the most equitable cannabis market in the nation,” lawsuits and bureaucratic stumbles have contributed to what critics say is a “botched” rollout of the state’s adult-use market.

Officials promised the first few hundred licenses would be reserved for justice-impacted individuals and community-serving nonprofits.

That attracted legal challenges.

The first was from an out-of-state litigant who claimed New York law that preferred residents was unconstitutional.

Later, both MSOs as well as a coterie of New York-residing military veterans filed separate lawsuits claiming they were unlawfully shut out of the process.

State regulators settled the last of those lawsuits this past fall.

New York officials point out that their industry is still arguably the country’s most diverse.

Roughly 20% of New York dispensaries are Black-owned compared with 0.2% nationwide, according to Hochul’s office.