New York officials are crafting new ways to get more cannabis dispensaries to open in the state... and fast.

It's been nine months since New York greenlit the recreational sale of marijuana.

However, despite a barrage of applications for new dispensaries, only two dozen have managed to open their doors.

Recreational Use Of Marijuana Becomes Legal In Nevada
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That's a problem for several reasons.

Why the Holdup?

Legal challenges have greatly slowed down the process for more dispensaries to open. Currently, more than 400 applicants who were approved to open such stores are in limbo.

Read More: More Cannabis Dispensaries Now Open in Upstate New York

When New York first legalized the sale of recreational marijuana, the state vowed to award retail licenses to those with past drug convictions first.

The sentiment was to allow those who were victims of the war on drugs to be first in line to open a dispensary, therefore giving them the chance to capitalize on a now-legal product they were once imprisoned or fined for possessing.

Lawmakers felt it was only right to give those with past drug convictions first right of refusal before competitors crowded the application process.

Not everyone felt the same way and a barrage of legal challenges were launched. Some of these lawsuits were made by disabled veterans while others were taken out on the behalf of affluent companies - but all felt the application process was unfair.

The argument was New York was actively excluding certain businesses from opening and operating in the state and were giving preferential treatment to others.

Recreational Use Of Marijuana Becomes Legal In Nevada
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Also slowing down the process was the delay in setting up New York's "social equity" fund to help applicants open their cannabis retail shops.

The fund was to house $200 million, but that money has also been sidelined due to lawsuits.

Consequences to the Slowdown

While these legal challenges have slowed down the application approval process, it is also wreaking havoc to farmers who invested into growing marijuana for public consumption.

With so few stores open and able to sell their harvest, it's negatively affecting their bottom line.

Additionally, lawmakers and authorities say these obstructions are causing would-be cannabis customers to purchase their marijuana from black-market dealers, which could pose a risk to their health.

Authorities have previously raised alarm of finding synthetic marijuana laced with opioids in New York. Health experts are urging residents to not make illegal drug purchases due to a rise in fentanyl poisonings.

Now, lawmakers have launched a new strategy that they hope will get things back on track and allow individuals to safely - and legally - purchase cannabis.

Bypassing the Lawsuits

State regulators have since opened a new, 60-day application window for those interested in selling recreational marijuana to cut down on wait time.

Those hoping to grow, process, distribute, or sell marijuana can now seek applications. The overall objective is to issue over 1,0000 new licenses from the pool.

Read More: NY Plans Massive Crackdown on Illegal Marijuana Dealers

Lawmakers have also issued new rules that loosened restrictions on those who grow and sell medical marijuana by allowing them to also sell their products for recreational use. These dispensaries can start selling to consumers as early as December 29.

The objective is to have more legal dispensaries open in the Empire State to meet the growing demand for marijuana and push out black-market sellers.


Unfortunately, not everyone in the recreational marijuana world is happy with these changes.

Too Much Competition?

Farmers and retailers are taking issue with having to now compete against those who grow or sell marijuana for medical use.

Coss Marte, who had to push back the opening of his CONBUD dispensary in Manhattan due to legal challenges, spoke to the Associated Press about why this will benefit big corporations - and not the "little guys."

My concern is that they have all the money to bleed us out. They’re vertically integrated. So now what they could do is ... grow their own product at the cheapest price and basically outbid all the farmers, all our products and all our pricing.

Marte has since been given the go-ahead to open his store, which will begin accepting customers next week.

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When it comes to allowing medical marijuana distributors to start selling to recreational consumers, New York has set high entry prices for them to join the industry. Those companies will need to pay a $20 million licensing fee, along with a $5 million due upfront.

While that may seem like a lot, multiple companies are expected to make those payments.

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

However, to avoid such companies from crowding the market or creating monopolies, they will only be allowed to open a maximum of three retail outlets in the state.

Mad at the State?

Those who are pro-recreational marijuana are frustrated by these moves and are blaming New York for not doing more to ensure a smooth rollout.

Some individual retailers say the state reneged on its promise to allow certain demographics tot open their dispensaries first. Others are likening the move to forcing mom-and-pop hardware stores to compete against big box stores.

Read More: Smoking Marijuana Could Be Banned Again in New York State

However, New York regulators and lawmakers appear confident everything will work itself out in the end. With the continually rising demand for recreational marijuana, its estimated the state will need to open at least 2,000 dispensaries to keep pace.

In short, marijuana consumers stand to gain from these changes.

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