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New York Expands Marijuana Licences; Prospective Retailers Feel Left Out


Coss Marte, who secured a coveted marijuana dispensary license in New York under the Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) program, is facing significant challenges as the state prepares to release general licenses for cannabis businesses. The CAURD program was designed to prioritize licenses for individuals with prior marijuana-related convictions, aiming to rectify the harms of prohibition. However, lawsuits from medical marijuana and veterans groups have halted the program, preventing most CAURD licensees from opening their businesses. These groups argue that the program is unconstitutional.

While only 23 CAURD licensees have managed to open their businesses, over 400 others have been unable to do so. In the meantime, approximately 1,500 unlicensed cannabis businesses have been operating in New York City alone. The recent announcement to expand the cannabis market in New York did not address the legal challenges faced by CAURD licensees, leaving them in a precarious position.

Starting in October, the state will open license applications to the general public and larger companies, potentially allowing large multistate manufacturers and medical firms to enter the market. This shift could benefit established players like Columbia Care, Cresco Labs, Curaleaf, Green Thumb, and Ascend Wellness Holdings.

The move aims to bolster New York’s fledgling legal cannabis market, which has faced challenges in meeting consumer demand and generating tax revenues. The state’s licensed dispensaries have reported cumulative sales of over $70 million, with projections suggesting the market could reach $1 billion annually by 2025 and $4.41 billion by 2030.

For CAURD licensees like Marte, the uncertainty surrounding their businesses is causing significant financial strain and jeopardizing their dreams of participating in the legal cannabis industry. While New York’s expansion of eligibility requirements may benefit the broader market, it underscores the challenges faced by those who were initially prioritized for licenses under the CAURD program.

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