In Buffalo, New York, Governor Kathy Hochul voiced her exasperation with the prolonged cannabis licensing process overseen by the state's Cannabis Control Board. Highlighting the need for immediate improvements, Hochul criticized the board's slow pace in approving cannabis licenses, emphasizing the importance of expediting the process.
"The process of obtaining these approvals has been frustratingly slow," Hochul remarked during a recent visit to the University at Buffalo. She identified multiple causes for the delays, including legal challenges and opposition from large corporations dissatisfied with the existing licensing framework she inherited. These disputes have notably halted the issuance of new licenses for nearly nine months, contributing significantly to the backlog.
The situation has further complicated with the filing of two new lawsuits in January, challenging the fairness and methodology of the cannabis licensing process. One lawsuit, initiated by Friendly Flower 1 Inc. in Albany County, criticizes the random lottery system for license allocation as 'arbitrary'. Meanwhile, in federal court, Valencia Ag. from the Syracuse area disputes the social equity criteria, alleging discrimination against white men. Both legal actions seek temporary injunctions, potentially causing further delays.
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes urged patience and compliance with the licensing procedure, while also advocating for adjustments to social equity measures and enforcement laws to address illegal cannabis operations. She expressed disappointment in the challenges to social equity regulations but remains optimistic about strengthening this aspect of the legislation.
In response to these ongoing issues, Governor Hochul has signed new legislation aimed at curbing the illegal cannabis market in New York State. Furthermore, the Cannabis Control Board postponed a recent meeting following intervention from the Governor's Office, which demanded the approval of more licenses before reconvening.
Peoples-Stokes also highlighted staffing shortages as a significant factor slowing down the process. With the state lagging in setting up regional offices, she calls for extensive recruitment efforts to bolster the workforce and streamline the licensing procedure.
Local cannabis business owners, like John Duncan of 716 Cannabis, shared their struggles with the licensing process, pointing out the difficulties in communication and the need for more experienced staff at the Office of Cannabis Management.
The challenges facing New York's cannabis licensing system underscore the need for reforms and efficient management to meet the growing demand and expectations of businesses and consumers alike.