Long Island Pot Deliveries Raise Legal Questions

Cannabis delivery Long Island
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Two companies — one based on the East End, the other in upstate New York — have begun delivering recreational cannabis to customers on Long Island, as the state’s marijuana industry rollout slowly advances.

Within days of Albany-based Legacy Dispensers making the first legal weed deliveries to customers in Long Island, Tribal Dash — an app that allows customers on the South Fork to order the delivery of cannabis products sold at a pair of dispensaries on the Shinnecock Indian Nation territory in Southampton — debuted on May 9.

Both services come as state regulators continue to approve more retail licenses for pot shops and cannabis cafes to open on the Island, although tribal dispensaries have their own regulations, but questions remain about the legality of Tribal Dash.

“Native Americans living on sovereign tribal land can choose to operate dispensaries that are not regulated under the New York State cannabis law, which has been done in other states that have legalized cannabis,” said Aaron Ghitelman, a spokesman for the state Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). “The OCM has the ability to enter into agreements with tribes through tribal compacts to integrate them into the state program if all parties can agree to terms.”

But officials with the state office of cannabis management said without a compact in place, sales from tribal dispensaries are limited to within the territorial limits of the reservation. The issue of crossing borders to deliver pot transcends tribal politics.

A Vermont dispensary was recently fined $20,000 for delivering marijuana to a location in New York. But on the local level, OCM officials have said that delivery can occur outside of the four LI towns that opted in to allow cannabis retail — Riverhead, Southampton, Brookhaven and Babylon.

Tribal Dash representatives said it made about 60 deliveries to Long Island customers from Montauk to Westhampton in its first week in operation. The app, a joint initiative between Shinnecock shops Cloud 9 and Conscious Cloud, may deploy drivers using scooters to avoid getting stuck in heavy Hamptons traffic, representatives said.

“So far it’s been great,” said Shane Breen, a representative of the agency assisting the dispensaries with the app, which offers delivery of pre-rolls, edibles, vaporizers and more. “We have lots of deliveries in the evening and at night.”

Shinnecock leaders told Newsday that the tribe’s cannabis board had not approved a license for the Tribal Dash dispensaries and said the deliveries were not sanctioned. Representatives for the dispensaries maintain they opened up shop prior to the tribe’s cannabis regulations being enacted, but have filed an application, which they said was lost. Tribal leaders were not available for comment at press time.

Yasmine and Awan Gumbs, who own the dispensaries behind Tribal Dash, maintain they are in compliance.

“Upon thorough review of the applicable regulations, it is our understanding that we are not only adhering to all state guidelines, but exceeding them where possible,” they said. “Our technologically advanced delivery platform is situated on our tribal lands, and all transactions occur within these boundaries, in strict accordance with the law. As per the provisions outlined in the state’s Adult-Use Cannabis Delivery Frequently Asked Questions, the state permits cannabis delivery services. This provides a clear indication that our delivery operations should be fully compliant.

“It is pertinent to note that the dispensaries have been in operation since 2021, prior to the implementation of the current application process,” they continued. “We have diligently followed this process, submitted our application, and remitted the required fees, which have been accepted and processed. We remain committed to operating within the legal framework and are prepared to cooperate fully with any further inquiries or requirements from regulatory bodies.”

Representatives for Little Beach Harvest, a tribal cannabis dispensary and lounge planned for Southampton, said they do not plan to offer deliveries from their location, once it opens.

Beyond the Shinnecock territory, more than three dozen other entities have been awarded Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses — paperwork required to open a pot shop or cannabis cafe — but none have opened since the first round was issued in November and only a handful have opened statewide.

Two more on LI joined their ranks at the state Cannabis Control Board’s (CCB) meeting on May 11: 1106 Rebecca Street, run by rental property business owner John Guercia, and Medic Grade, whose proprietor Nnamdi O Ukasoanya owned and operated a lab testing supply company. They were among 50 approved last week.

“The approval of 50 additional CAURD provisional licenses by the Cannabis Control Board represents a major stride toward realizing our vision of an equitable cannabis industry,” said Tremaine Wright, chair of the CCB. “These licenses provide a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs to participate in the legal market, help us shape and develop retail as well as spur innovation and diversity in New York’s cannabis supply chain.”

At that same meeting, the CCB also outlined new enforcement powers that the state Legislature enacted as part of the 2023 budget in a bid to crack down on unlicensed dispensaries that have popped up, mostly in New York City, although some illegal sales have been uncovered on the island.

The new rules allow OCM to fine unlicensed cannabis businesses up to $20,000 a day for the most egregious conduct, bolsters its inspection authority, allows the agency to seize product from unlicensed shops and enables the state Department of Taxation and Finance to ensure dispensaries are collecting and submitting taxes on cannabis sales.

“New York’s Cannabis Law lays out an approach that incorporates lessons learned from other states that have ended prohibition, now our current team picks up the torch with the heavy work of filling out the true blueprint to making New York’s cannabis market the most equitable, and successful, cannabis market in the nation,” said Chris Alexander Executive Director of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management. “This living document represents the path forward for New York.”