New York Doesn't Licence Pot Businesses, Yet They're Everywhere

New York Doesn’t Licence Pot Businesses, Yet They’re Everywhere

Yuri Krupitsky is eager, worried, and frustrated as he waits to find out whether or not he will be allowed to open one of the first legal marijuana shops for recreational use in New York.

He wrangled a lengthy application to become one of approximately 900 candidates for the first round of 150 licences, only to face further uncertainty due to a court judgement handed down last week. It temporarily holds the state’s ability to authorise cannabis dispensaries in Brooklyn, Krupitsky’s home turf, and in certain other districts.

In the meantime, many unlicensed cannabis businesses have opened their doors. People who shrug their shoulders at needing a licence can now openly sell marijuana over the entirety of New York City’s retail establishments.

Kuritsky referred to it as an instance of unfair competition. “Everyone is telling you to ‘Sit around and wait,’ while in the meantime, I see shop after shop, and the owners are making their money. I will wait until someone shows me the proper method to do it.

The state Cannabis Control Board, which is under pressure to launch one of the nation’s most hotly anticipated legal marijuana markets, is scheduled to consider awarding some dispensary licences to entrepreneurs and nonprofit groups on Monday. This is a significant step as cannabis regulators emphasise that they’re trying to stop unlicensed sellers.

“You can’t have a legal, regulated and illegal market at the same time,” Aaron Ghitelman, a spokesperson for the Office of Cannabis Management, said in a statement. “That goes against the goals of the state’s Cannabis Law, which are to protect public health and build an equitable market that works to fix the harms caused by the unfair enforcement of cannabis prohibition.”

In March 2021, New York made it legal for adults to use marijuana for fun, but the state is still giving licences to people who want to sell it. It gave its first round of retail grants to people convicted of marijuana crimes or related to them and some nonprofit groups. It also planned to set up a public-private fund with $200 million to help people who wanted “social equity.”

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Officials even went out of their way to find, design, and fix up storefronts for for-profit entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs must sublease a space picked out by the state and pay back the costs of fixing it up.

Ten groups of architects and builders have been chosen, and the state is talking to landlords about dozens of possible sites. About 20 are going through preliminary design reviews, said Jeffrey Gordon, a spokesman for DASNY, the state’s building arm. He said that the state has put money into the equity fund and is working on getting private money to pay for everything.

Gordon said that the agency wants to have a few dispensaries open by the end of the year, but “unexpected delays” like the court case, which challenges some of the state’s requirements for applicants, have slowed things down. “But a lot of the pieces are in place and ready to go,” he said. While these plans are being worked on, some people who want to sell pot have rented storefronts and opened them without permission.

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Empire Cannabis Club has a location in Brooklyn, two locations in Manhattan, and plans for more. Jonathan Elfand, the club’s owner, says it has been open for a year and sells marijuana products to thousands of members who pay daily or monthly fees.

He says the operation is allowed by the law. The state doesn’t agree, but Elfand isn’t afraid and says he’d be happy to fight in court. “Please bring the battle if you think we’re doing something wrong. “We’re ready,” Elfand said. He had also applied for a licence to run a dispensary.

The Cannabis Office has told Empire and dozens of other businesses to stop selling marijuana, and the Cannabis Office is working with local law enforcement to crack down. Also, on Thursday, the State Liquor Authority took away the liquor licence of a deli on Long Island, saying that the store sold marijuana.

Enforcement can entail violation notices or arrests. Searches at a store in a suburb of Buffalo in February and a shop in Brooklyn on Wednesday led to felony charges of marijuana possession.

“We’re going to take all the legal action available to us” to ensure people understand they can’t sell unregulated pot with impunity, New York City Sheriff Anthony Miranda said. His office and the New York Police Department also have cited parking and vending laws to tow trucks suspected of selling weed.

Craig Sweat and his business partners ran a fleet of trucks called “Uncle Budd” that were seized in September. He says that they didn’t sell marijuana but instead gave it to people who gave them money. Even with the seizure, he doesn’t think the government wants to shut down all illegal shops. “That would be like making marijuana illegal again,” he says.

In June, the state Senate passed a plan to increase fines for illegal sales and make it a misdemeanour to sell without a licence. The bill died in the Assembly, but the Democrat who sponsored it, Sen. Liz Krueger, is “optimistic” that it will be taken up again next year.

Jessica Naissant is one of the people who want to open a dispensary and hopes to get approved on Monday. She thinks she’s the best person for the job. She is a first-generation Haitian American, and until recently, she ran a store where she sold CBD, a chemical in cannabis that doesn’t make you high and is legal under federal law. She talks about marijuana legalisation as a volunteer to church groups and others. She also has a qualifying arrest record: in 2016, she was charged with having pot on her person.

Naissant said, “There was no way I would miss this chance.” But now she’s worried about how last week’s court decision will affect her chances since Brooklyn, where she grew up, was her first choice of place to live.

“It’s sad and happy simultaneously,” she said. Along with people who want to sell, hundreds of hemp farmers who just grew New York’s first legal crop of marijuana want to know when dispensaries will open so they can sell their crops.

Dan Livingston, who works for a trade group called the Cannabis Association of New York, said, “They don’t have much choice but to wait and hope they don’t have to take any losses.” Even with its flaws, New York’s approach to legalisation has been praised for being innovative and focused on fairness, and cannabis lawyer and applicant advocate Scheril Murray Powell advises patience. As the Justus Foundation’s chief operating officer, she works to help long-time sellers become legal.

She said, “They’ve been waiting for this moment for decades, and I think everyone is committed to ensuring it goes well.” “A few more months won’t take long to get it right.”

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