Enrichment Arts & Culture

New York awards first marijuana dispensary licenses

The licenses were distributed to sellers with prior marijuana convictions, family members of these individuals, or non-profits who work with incarcerated populations.
New York state flag.
iStock.

Story at a glance


  • The state hopes to distribute 175 licenses in total.

  • In 2021, New York is the 15th state to legalize recreational cannabis. 

  • Following the 2022 midterm elections, recreational marijuana is now legal in 21 states and Washington, D.C.

New York state issued 36 Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) cannabis licenses today, more than a year and half after lawmakers voted to legalize adult recreational use in March 2021. 

At the time, the state was the 15th in the country to legalize adult recreational marijuana. Estimates project the new industry could bring in as much as $1.1 billion in sales

The state’s Office of Cannabis Management released a list of the licenses on its Twitter account

It includes 28 individuals and eight nonprofit organizations. The Cannabis Control Board plans to issue 175 licenses in total and is prioritizing applicants with a prior cannabis conviction or those with a family member with a conviction. These applicants must also have owned a profitable business. 

In addition, eligible nonprofits must have a history of serving current or formerly incarcerated individuals. 


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The office has already received more than 900 applicants, and New Yorkers can expect some dispensaries to open before 2023. 

“Today is a monumental day for New York’s nascent cannabis industry. With the first adult-use retail dispensary licenses in the hands of businesses and eligible nonprofits, we’ve ensured the first sales will be made at dispensaries operated by those impacted by the unjust enforcement of cannabis prohibition,” said Tremaine Wright, Chair of the Cannabis Control Board in a statement.  

The licensed dispensaries will sell cannabis products grown by New York farmers, per the state’s Seeding Opportunity Initiative. Introduced by Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) in March 2022, the initiative permits those with CAURD licenses to receive support from the Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund, a $200 million program. 

The majority of the licenses were issued to people of color. 

“These entrepreneurs will be selling sun-grown cannabis cultivated with a minimal carbon footprint, and we must continue to ensure that New York’s industry remains on an equitable and climate conscious path well into the future,” added Jen Metzger, Cannabis Control Board Member.

A court ruling earlier this month delayed the issuing of licenses, as it prohibited dispensary approval in the Finger Lakes, Central New York, Western New York, Mid-Hudson and Brooklyn.

Following the 2022 midterm elections, recreational adult cannabis use is now legal in 21 states and Washington, D.C.