Regulators in New York announced this week that the state would double the number of cannabis retailer licenses, bringing the total number of Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) Licenses for recreational marijuana dispensaries to 300 instead of the 150 originally planned. The new licenses, which will be selected from an existing pool of qualified business applicants, will be issued proportionally throughout New York, doubling the number of licenses in each of 14 regions of the state.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Cannabis Control Board and the Office of Cannabis Management announced that increasing the number of licenses “will further advance New York State’s Seeding Opportunity Initiative, which provides for the state’s first legal adult-use retail dispensaries to be operated by those most impacted by the prohibition of cannabis or by nonprofit organizations whose services include support for the formerly incarcerated.”

“With this expansion, more entrepreneurs will be able to participate in the first wave of this industry, allowing them to capitalize on the growing demand for cannabis products,” said Tremaine Wright, chair of the Cannabis Control Board. “As more businesses enter this market, the innovation and competition will increase, leading to better quality experiences for consumers. The expansion of New York’s cannabis market will benefit everyone involved in this exciting industry.” 

New York’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) received about 900 applications for CAURD licenses from prospective business owners. To date, the Cannabis Control Board has issued 66 provisional CAURD licenses, with the first shop opening in late December. In April, the OCM will make recommendations to the board on the majority of the remaining applications in the areas of the state not impacted by a November court injunction blocking the agency from awarding retail dispensary licenses in five regions of the state.

$200 Million Fund To Support New York Licensees

The CAURD program, which provides licenses to justice-involved individuals, initially allowed for up to 150 businesses to receive a provisional CAURD license. This effort was enhanced through the creation of the New York State Social Equity Cannabis Fund, a $200 million public-private partnership providing renovated, ready-to-open retail locations to the 150 licensees. The OCM characterized the fund as a first-of-its-kind effort in the nation designed to help reduce the barriers independent entrepreneurs face in raising capital to launch a business in the cannabis industry.

“Doubling the amount of available Conditional Adult-Use Dispensary Licenses will help kickstart the growth of New York’s cannabis industry,” said Damian Fagon, the OCM’s chief equity officer. “More stores means more locations for New York farmers to sell their harvests, more convenience for New York customers to make the right decisions and purchase safer and legal products, and twice as many opportunities for New Yorkers harmed by over-policing during cannabis prohibition.”

In December, the OCM announced that CAURD licensees would also be allowed to secure their own business locations without seeking support from the social equity fund, potentially freeing up resources for some of the newly authorized CAURD licenses announced today. The initial 150 approved CAURD licensees will be prioritized to receive resources if they choose a location supported by the fund. Applicants chosen for the additional 150 CAURD licenses announced this week will be given access to any remaining fund resources.

“New York is doing something special when it comes to launching our cannabis industry, and now we’re doubling the impact of our Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary program,” said Chris Alexander, executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management. “It’s been truly exciting to see the positive energy around our efforts to support entrepreneurs who previously suffered at the hands of New York State. We will continue creating real opportunities for qualified applicants who’ve been shut out from legal cannabis markets across the country.” 

Michelle Bodian, a partner at the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente LLP, said that Thursday’s announcement offers new opportunities for entrepreneurs eager to enter New York’s cannabis industry.

“Doubling the number of available CAURD licenses drastically changes the calculus for hopeful CAURD applicants,” Bodian wrote in an email to High Times. “As only a limited number of licenses have been awarded to date, this expansion provides a huge first mover advantage for the remaining approximate 230 licenses to be awarded.”

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