100-200 NY businesses expected to be able to legally sell marijuana by end of 2022

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — By the end of the year, you should be able to buy marijuana from a legal dispensary here in New York. The head of the commission setting up the rules and regulations for an adult-use market was in Rochester on Thursday.

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke interviewed Chris Alexander, the Executive Director of the NYS Office for Cannabis Management and Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes who were keynote speakers at an event for people interested in the cannabis business hosted by the Rochester Chamber of Commerce.

Chris Alexander – We’re here because we just want to make sure that we’re doing as much as possible to educate the public about the opportunities so that those who are usually left out and left behind, don’t get left behind when it comes to cannabis in the State of NY.

Crystal Peoples-Stokes – There are a lot of reasons why people of color don’t trust government and they don’t necessarily want to be in the media around this issue either so I think it’s a great idea to go with “get ready, get set” because that’s going to go in deep weeds and find the people and talk to them at the level they understand.

“Get Ready, Get Set”—is what the NYS Office of Cannabis Management is calling its outreach efforts to help New Yorkers directly impacted by the over-criminalization of cannabis prepare to apply for conditional adult-use retail licenses. The virtual workshops will begin on May 17.

Jennifer Lewke – How many licenses do you want to be able to provide during that first round?

Chris Alexander – For the retail opportunities, we’re envisioning between one hundred and two hundred retail operations being the first to open in the state… our goal is to have stores open before the end of the year and so the product will be ready in the fall and our goal is to make sure we have these dispensers open by the end of the year.

Jennifer Lewke – We have a number of shops locally who appear to be selling THC products already, how do you plan to regulate that and ensure that only those with the licenses are selling the product?

Chris Alexander – Yea so, one of the goals of legalization was making sure that we were improving public health outcomes across the state and that was by creating a safe, regulated, tested product. Folks have definitely gotten ahead of us a bit, in the gap between the legislation and it being enacted and us getting stores and stuff open. We have sent cease and desist letters from our office.

Crystal Peoples-Stokes – I have to acknowledge that I’m a little discouraged that we didn’t move with some speed to start getting set up, so it’s our fault that we legalized a product and did not have regulations structured around it.

NYS has said it will initially prioritize applications for dispensary licenses submitted by those who’ve previously been convicted of a marijuana offense.

Grant Atkins and Jesse Watson have been in the marijuana business for many years. They, and about 30 other growers and distributors have created the New York Green Coalition. Their intention is to be a bridge between the illicit market and the legal one.

“The biggest thing that we’re trying to service is creating pathways, comfortable pathways for them to emerge out of their mole hole so to speak,” Atkins explained.

While they appreciate the state’s commitment to prioritize licenses to those in marginalized communities.

“There’s kind of a contradictory element when you want to use previous criminal convictions as a criteria to validate when the most successful of us don’t get caught,” Atkins said.

It’s a valid point and without it being considered, those in the illicit market aren’t likely to even consider entering the legal market.

“A lot of people don’t have particular capital to get involved in this business and a lot of people really don’t want to expose themselves in such a way because they know they’re doing good underground and sometimes to pick your head up it might get shot off. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it as we say,” Watson said.

But they believe there could be power in numbers.

“We provide that pathway for people to say, okay these are our brothers and sisters, I can feel safe entering into this space here,” Atkins said.

He’s hoping that the state will consider some sort of amnesty for those willing to consider a transition.

“If we can’t be protected for disclosing who we are and what we do then the talks stall,” Atkins said.

If they can be protected, they’re hoping they can help shape policy moving forward.

“We want to let everyone else out there know that, come get with us. Strength in numbers, we’re advocating, working on the legislative side, the regulatory side,” Atkins added.

For more information on the NY Green Coalition, click here.

The “Get Ready, Get Set” workshops are a two-part series of virtual events in May. The first phase of events will be two learning sessions focused on providing information and education to CAURD-eligible individuals and the organizations that work with them. The second phase of events will be two listening sessions the first focused on obtaining feedback from individuals and community organizations on how to support cannabis cultivation in New York State, followed by a second session on how to help ensure equity is successfully integrated into the developing New York State cannabis industry.

Learning Series:

Tuesday, May 17 at 4 p.m. – Am I Eligible for a CAURD License? How do I Apply for a Conditional License?

Wednesday, May 18 at 4 p.m. – How to Support Individuals with a Cannabis Conviction in Applying for License

Listening Series:

Tuesday, May 24 at 4 p.m. – How to Support Cannabis Cultivation in NYS

Wednesday, May 25 at 4 p.m. – How to Ensure Equity in the NYS Cannabis Industry

These events will be streamed online, you can find sign-up forms to RSVP to these events here.