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‘I’m very fed up’: Gov. Hochul, legislature try to speed up cannabis license process

todayFebruary 1, 2024 2

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Gov. Kathy Hochul says she’s fed up with the state’s Cannabis Control Board. She says changes need to be made to the cannabis licensing process soon.

“I’m very fed up with how long it is taking to get these approvals,” Gov. Hochul said.

There have been several delays, and challenges, as well as confusion. Gov. Hochul said she called out the board saying more licenses need to be granted and that she is disappointed with the current pace.

“No, I’m not satisfied with the pace. Part of the problem is, larger conglomerates that didn’t like the system that was set up that I inherited, they didn’t like the metrics that were being used there and they wanted to stop it. They successfully stopped the program for nine months, so that’s also a large part of why there’s been a delay,” Gov. Hochul explained while at UB last week.

Several lawsuits have been filed against the Office of Cannabis Management, which stopped it from giving out new licenses for months last year, which the governor was critical of.

Two new lawsuits were filed in January questioning the cannabis license process and who qualifies. In one suit filed in Albany County, Friendly Flower 1 Inc. questioned the randomized lottery process, calling the lengthy queue ‘arbitrary’.

In federal court, Valencia Ag., a company based in the Syracuse area, questions the social equity regulation, saying it discriminates against Caucasian men.

Both lawsuits call for a temporary injunction, which the governor said will slow the process down significantly. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes hopes people will wait their turn to get their license and not slow things down. The judges in both cases have not made a ruling.

Peoples-Stokes says she would also like to see some adjustments in the social equity regulations and enforcement legislation to stop the illegal cannabis business in its tracks. She expects this to be a part of the budget process this spring. She also says she is disappointed with the challenges to the social equity regulations, but believes there is a way to make that part of the legislation stronger.

“This last case though I think is absolutely, and totally incorrect and unfair. To suggest that some people are being discriminated against because they are not necessarily justice impacted — that’s not fair,” Peoples-Stokes said about the current lawsuits.

Last week, the Cannabis Control Board postponed a meeting after the Governor’s Offie stepped in saying more licenses need to be granted before the board can meet again.

“My understanding is the board was supposed to consider over 400 applicants. Some for retail and some for the growing opportunities. They were supposed to come up with 400 before the next meeting. They only had three new retail locations approved, so my team said, ‘No, go back to the drawing board, work harder, get this done,” Gov. Hochul said.

Peoples-Stokes blames the lack of staff in the field offices for the delay.

“There are supposed to be three regional offices up and running in the state of New York. I can tell you there are probably only one or two people in the Buffalo office and it needs many, many more than that. I think some sort of massive recruitment and outreach to get people hired and into these jobs will help this process a long way,” Peoples-Stokes explained.

News 4 spoke with the owners of 716 Cannabis via phone. John Duncan outlined his frustrations with the process, saying it took 18 months to get their license. He said it was very difficult every step of the way, including now, after their business opened.

Cannabis farmers grow impatient waiting for legal dispensaries to open

After the CAURD program was announced, Duncan believe he and his wife would qualify to get this type of license. Throughout the process there were several hoops they had to jump through to prove their qualifications and they said it was difficult to communicate with the office.

Even now nearly two months after they got their license to open a dispensary, they still do not have a direct contact with the Office of Cannabis Management and Duncan says it takes days for the office to respond to problems that pop up. He blames the lack of experienced staff in these problems.

The Office of Cannabis Management did not return News 4’s request for comment.

​ BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Gov. Kathy Hochul says she’s fed up with the state’s Cannabis Control Board. She says changes need to be made to the cannabis licensing process soon.

“I’m very fed up with how long it is taking to get these approvals,” Gov. Hochul said.

There have been several delays, and challenges, as well as confusion. Gov. Hochul said she called out the board saying more licenses need to be granted and that she is disappointed with the current pace.

“No, I’m not satisfied with the pace. Part of the problem is, larger conglomerates that didn’t like the system that was set up that I inherited, they didn’t like the metrics that were being used there and they wanted to stop it. They successfully stopped the program for nine months, so that’s also a large part of why there’s been a delay,” Gov. Hochul explained while at UB last week.

Several lawsuits have been filed against the Office of Cannabis Management, which stopped it from giving out new licenses for months last year, which the governor was critical of.

Two new lawsuits were filed in January questioning the cannabis license process and who qualifies. In one suit filed in Albany County, Friendly Flower 1 Inc. questioned the randomized lottery process, calling the lengthy queue ‘arbitrary’.

In federal court, Valencia Ag., a company based in the Syracuse area, questions the social equity regulation, saying it discriminates against Caucasian men.

Both lawsuits call for a temporary injunction, which the governor said will slow the process down significantly. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes hopes people will wait their turn to get their license and not slow things down. The judges in both cases have not made a ruling.

Peoples-Stokes says she would also like to see some adjustments in the social equity regulations and enforcement legislation to stop the illegal cannabis business in its tracks. She expects this to be a part of the budget process this spring. She also says she is disappointed with the challenges to the social equity regulations, but believes there is a way to make that part of the legislation stronger.

“This last case though I think is absolutely, and totally incorrect and unfair. To suggest that some people are being discriminated against because they are not necessarily justice impacted — that’s not fair,” Peoples-Stokes said about the current lawsuits.

Last week, the Cannabis Control Board postponed a meeting after the Governor’s Offie stepped in saying more licenses need to be granted before the board can meet again.

“My understanding is the board was supposed to consider over 400 applicants. Some for retail and some for the growing opportunities. They were supposed to come up with 400 before the next meeting. They only had three new retail locations approved, so my team said, ‘No, go back to the drawing board, work harder, get this done,” Gov. Hochul said.

Peoples-Stokes blames the lack of staff in the field offices for the delay.

“There are supposed to be three regional offices up and running in the state of New York. I can tell you there are probably only one or two people in the Buffalo office and it needs many, many more than that. I think some sort of massive recruitment and outreach to get people hired and into these jobs will help this process a long way,” Peoples-Stokes explained.

News 4 spoke with the owners of 716 Cannabis via phone. John Duncan outlined his frustrations with the process, saying it took 18 months to get their license. He said it was very difficult every step of the way, including now, after their business opened.
Cannabis farmers grow impatient waiting for legal dispensaries to open
After the CAURD program was announced, Duncan believe he and his wife would qualify to get this type of license. Throughout the process there were several hoops they had to jump through to prove their qualifications and they said it was difficult to communicate with the office.

Even now nearly two months after they got their license to open a dispensary, they still do not have a direct contact with the Office of Cannabis Management and Duncan says it takes days for the office to respond to problems that pop up. He blames the lack of experienced staff in these problems.

The Office of Cannabis Management did not return News 4’s request for comment. Read More New York StateRochesterFirst  

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