New York Gov. Blasts Cannabis Industry Roll-Out as New Lawsuits Seek to Delay Licensing

Governor Kathy Hochul labeled New York’s adult-use cannabis industry roll-out a “disaster,” critiquing the slow launch that benefited unregulated retailers, amidst a backdrop of legal challenges against its licensing process.

Full story after the jump.

The roll-out of New York’s adult-use cannabis industry has been “a disaster,” Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said last week in an interview with Buffalo News.

Hochul said that while she agrees that cannabis legalization is “the right policy,” the state took too long to launch legal sales. This ultimately gave the unregulated market significant advantages over early licensees. She also said that officials have little resources or “teeth” with which to pursue and punish unlicensed retailers, which have only flourished since cannabis prohibition was lifted by lawmakers in 2021 — and which officials say put the state’s cannabis consumers at risk.

“It’s not every street corner, it is every other storefront. It is insane.” — Hochul, via Buffalo News

The governor’s criticisms followed a recent incident where officials were only prepared to issue three new cannabis industry licenses despite the expectation that hundreds of licenses would have been awarded by now.

The industry’s roll-out has largely been delayed due to lawsuits against the state’s social equity- and lottery-based licensing system, including a lawsuit by military veterans who argued they were being wrongfully excluded from the social equity licensing process.

Hochul’s harsh words turned almost prophetic this week following the announcement of several new lawsuits against the state’s licensing process, according to Green Market Report.

The latest suit was filed this week by seven women-owned, social equity cannabis companies who claim that the “randomized queue” being used by lawmakers is “arbitrary and capricious,” and that certain inconsistencies — one licensee, for example, was found to have an extra entry in the queue — suggest the system is fundamentally flawed.

In another lawsuit filed on January 24, plaintiff Valencia Ag LLC argues that the state’s licensing preferences for minority and/or women applicants violate the U.S. Constitution by giving “disfavor to white men.”

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