Cannabis Control Board approves 99 new dispensaries including in Western NY

ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York State Cannabis Control Board approved 99 new cannabis dispensaries on Monday, including four in Western New York.

None were approved in the Finger Lakes Region, which includes Rochester, because of an ongoing federal lawsuit filed by a Michigan company. However, the board did approve the Certainty Analytical Labs in Rochester for medical marijuana testing.

The state’s map shows that Monroe, Orleans, Wayne, Livingston, Genesee, Wyoming, Ontario, Yates, and Seneca counties all fall under the Finger Lakes. The Buffalo region falls under Western New York.

The approvals come a week after a U.S. Court of Appeals judge allowed all regions in the state, except the Finger Lakes, to open dispensaries with a license. The ruling focused on a lawsuit that claims New York is discriminating against out-of-state businesses by prioritizing dispensary licenses for people who have marijuana convictions within New York. 

MJ Dispensary in Henrietta is one applicant awaiting their license. Ryan Martin owns the operation with his wife, Myla.

“I really want to be part of this cannabis community,” said Martin.

Martin said they’re mostly ready to open, but the process of getting to that day has been a very slow one.

“We were open a few months [in April 2021], and got a Cease-and-Desist letter on March 28 of 2021,’ he said. “We closed our doors right after the letter was read, we’ve been waiting over a year for the OCM [Office Cannabis Management] to license us.”

The couple was determined to jump through any hoops that came their way. They passed code enforcement, and were even twelfth to apply for a conditional adult use license (CAURD).

But in Nov. of 2022, the Michigan-based company sued after getting denied a spot in the FLX region. The litigation is placing a hold on the whole process for local applicants.

“They have been releasing licenses, I think 165 to this day, in all the areas but the Finger Lakes,” said Martin. “So it’s really frustrating.”

While dispensaries in other parts of the state get granted licenses, the Martin family continues paying rent, utilities and checking up on security.

For the time being, Martin is making ends meet in a rather creative way.

“I’ve been a professional poker player, traveling to Vegas, Atlantic City,” he said.

He’s looking forward to the day he can welcome the community with open arms, and offer them his services.

“I just really can’t wait to talk to the people again. When I was open for those three months, you just got people coming in here with fibromyalgia, PTSD, ADHD, cancer,” he said.

The state had no comment on Monday, with regards to pending litigation.

The total number of state-issued licenses for dispensaries is now 165. Here is the number of dispensaries that were approved per region on Monday:

  • 4 in Western New York
  • 1 in Central New York
  • 9 in the Bronx
  • 3 in Brooklyn
  • 5 in the Capital Region
  • 23 in Long Island
  • 21 in Manhattan
  • 5 in Mid-Hudson
  • 2 in Mohawk Valley
  • 4 in North Country
  • 17 in Queens
  • 3 in Staten Island
  • 2 in the Southern Tier

The state legalized the recreational use of cannabis in March 2021 and issued the first round of licenses to open dispensaries in November. The non-profit Housing Works in Manhattan became the state’s first legal cannabis dispensary when it opened on Dec. 29.

To apply for a license, applicants must show they’ve run a profitable business and that they, or a family member, has gotten a marijuana conviction before it was legalized. The state’s Office of Cannabis Management is prioritizing people with marijuana convictions to help communities that have been unequally impacted by its criminalization.

“The approval of these licenses will help expedite building a robust and diverse supply chain while also ensuring that individuals that have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition have meaningful opportunities to participate in the industry,” said Chris Alexander, executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management.

Senator Jeremy Cooney released the following statement in response to the ongoing litigation:

“The Rochester and Greater Finger Lakes Region was negatively impacted by the failed war on drugs. Its residents, especially members of the Black and Brown community, deserve the opportunity to participate in the social equity programs included within the MRTA legalization. 

While we celebrate the decision of the Second Circuit to lift the injunction for Western New York, Hudson Valley, and Brooklyn, we remain hopeful the Finger Lakes Region will soon be permitted to participate in this economic empowerment program administered by the NYS Office of Cannabis Management.

Importantly, New York will not reach its goals for an equitable and thriving adult-use cannabis marketplace until all regions are open for business.”

More about local people seeking to open dispensaries:

See our series “Cannabis Countdown” about what NYS can expect as dispensaries open: