Gov. Kathy Hochul confirms marijuana dispensaries set to open this year
In an exclusive interview with the Advance Media New York editorial board on Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state’s plan to have 20 conditional adult-use retail dispensaries open by the end of this year is “still on track” – and to expect “another 20″ to open every month or so thereafter.
“We’re going to make sure that this is a model for the rest of the nation – especially with our desire to make sure that people who’ve been affected by the criminal justice system adversely … have the opportunity to work in this area,” Hochul said.
The governor met with the editorial board to discuss a range of topics, including cannabis, and was asked whether she was concerned about the shifting timelines for rolling out retail operations.
“Talk about the rollout being jammed up,” she said. “When I became governor, nothing had happened. Nothing. It was shut down because there was a battle between the administration and the legislature over who would be the executive director and the chairs of the cannabis review boards.
“So, I was given a lot of credit because within one week, I named people. I got things going. So, when I speak to people about being part of this industry, the first thing they say is ‘thank you.’ Because otherwise we could still be waiting and waiting and waiting, even for the most basic steps to be taken. So we’ve been moving along quickly.”
To recap: the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act was signed into law on March 31, 2021, by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But in the months following, the Cuomo administration made almost zero progress in setting up the regulatory framework to oversee the industry.
After Cuomo was ousted, Gov. Hochul immediately appointed Tremaine Wright and Chris Alexander to head the Cannabis Control Board and Office of Cannabis Management, respectively. Those regulatory bodies held their first meeting in October of 2021, and estimated an 18-month timeline to complete the licensing process and establish a fully functioning cannabis “ecosystem” in New York – with retail opening by the end of this year.
But full regulations governing the industry must first be published, and estimates for when those will be public have been pushed back again and again. Partly as a result, those in and around the cannabis industry in NY – including politicians – have called into question the likelihood of hitting the end-of-year timeline.
There are other complicating factors as well: The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York is charged with overseeing the buildouts of the first 150 retail dispensaries, but to date the agency hasn’t confirmed securing a single location; the social equity fund, which will finance these buildouts, hasn’t announced having raised any money toward its $150 million goal; there is no bank yet secured to house that money; and although the OCM received more than 900 applications from hopeful business owners looking to occupy these spaces, it still must vet, score and award licenses, and only then can these dispensary operators begin setting up shop.
There is, however, a lesser-discussed solution to open by the end of the year: In addition to the state’s anticipated 150 dispensaries for CAURD applicants, it’s also reserving another 25 licenses for nonprofits. These nonprofits will not have access to the DASNY properties or NY’s $200 million social equity cannabis investment fund – but that could mean a faster opening.
Either way, there’s a lot to accomplish with less than 90 days until the end of the year. But Hochul is confident.
“We expect the first 20 dispensaries to be open by the end of this year,” she said Wednesday. “And then every month or so, another 20. So, we’re not going to just jam it out there. It’s going to work and be successful.”