The New York Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) announced its final list of applicants who will be issued the first retail cannabis licenses in the state. Thirty-six applicants were announced on Nov. 20, which were chosen out of a pool of 903 applicants.

“BREAKING: In a historic decision, the #NYCCB has approved the first round of CAURD [Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary] licensees. 28 Justice-involved individuals & 8 Nonprofit organizations will make the first adult use-sales by New York farmers and bring countless opportunities to our communities. #NYCCB” the OCM wrote on Twitter on Nov. 21. The regions with the most CAURD licenses include Manhattan (22), Long Islands (20), Brooklyn (19), Mid-Hudson (19), and Queens (16).

According to The New York Times, a majority of the finalists are owned by people who have been previously convicted of a cannabis offense, or have a close family member who have been convicted. There are eight non-profit organizations, (such as Housing Works, The Doe Fund, and LIFE Camp), which are also included in the final list.

In addition to the finalist announcement, the OCM also released a 282-page document detailing the state’s draft regulations. “The #NYCCB has voted to advance OCM’s largest adult-use cannabis regulation package since the MRTA [Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act] passed to public comment. These regulations are intended to establish rules for a safe, equitable, consumer-driven market focused on small businesses,” the agency wrote, inviting the public to submit comments to regulations@ocm.ny.gov (which will be open for 60 days).

The OCM has previously stated that it aims to have some retail dispensaries open before the end of 2022. “We’re excited about granting the first adult-use cannabis licenses today,” said OCM spokesperson Trivette Knowles. “New York is ready for adult-use cannabis sales and we’re still working towards the goal of having the first sales begin this calendar year.” Eventually, an estimated 150 retail licenses are expected to be awarded across the state.

This expectation aligns with an earlier statement from New York from Gov. Kathy Hochul in October as well. “We expect the first 20 dispensaries to be open by the end of this year,” Hochul said. “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.”

Recent reports state that New York has over $750 million worth of cannabis harvested and stockpiled, but nowhere for it to go without licensed dispensaries to sell them.

According to New York-based Hudson Cannabis farm CEO Melany Dobson, they’ve just been waiting for the OCM to greenlight license approval. “It’s an unclear path to market. We’ve been told again and again that dispensaries will open before the end of the year,” Dobson told Bloomberg. “I’ve acted as though that’s our single source of proof, so we’re prepared for that.”

Cannabis begins to deteriorate when it begins to age, both in color as well as quality. “Old cannabis starts to have a brownish glow,” Dobson explained. While Hudson Cannabis’s operation allows it to store cannabis to prevent degradation for about 12 months, other farms may not be able to preserve their cannabis for long before it becomes unusable.

Recently a judge issued a temporary injunction that prevents New York regulators from issuing retail licenses in five regions of the state. According to a statement from David C. Holland, a partner of the law firm Prince Lobel, this injunction could expand to include other regions of New York as well. “This could have a wider impact across the entire state as the same state-specific contact and conviction requirements were imposed in 14 regions in New York, which are designated to set up a CAURD dispensary and may have prevented justice-involved individuals from other states from applying for a conditional license because of the state’s efforts to protect and promote its emerging cannabis industry,” Holland stated.

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