NYS Cannabis Control Board gets earful from retail license applicants

Cannabis dispensary applicants give Albany an earful

The News10NBC Team details breaking News, Traffic and Weather.

The problem with cannabis licenses that News10NBC exposed to you at the beginning of the month came to a head Friday.

A member of the state’s Cannabis Control Board told the state’s cannabis leaders that they have to start shooting straight with the thousands of people who applied for a cannabis license. And the same board got an earful from the public who showed up to their meeting in Albany.

This is a process the governor called a “disaster.”

Here’s the problem:

There are thousands of people who have been working and preparing to run a cannabis retail shop for years — but when the board created a list for the lottery of licenses, many of them ended up on the bottom.

That’s what happened with Steve VanDeWalle. In early February, he took me into what he hopes will be his cannabis retail shop on the west side of Rochester.

Applicants were told that having a viable space was a priority.

But the Cannabis Control Board weighed applications to favor those in affected communities and applicants who had a past marijuana conviction — and it left applicants like VanDeWalle at the end of the lottery list and paying rent.

“Pretty much we had a perfect application but because of the unluck of the draw we’re sitting towards the last part of the queue, number 1,967 of 2,232,” he said. “If the Office of Cannabis Management keeps choosing licenses based on this list we will not be able to receive a license in the foreseeable future. And most people won’t either.”

The board issued 360 licenses out of more than 2,300 applications filed in the first wave. 
It’s starting to issue the second wave of licenses with an extra 6,000 applicants.

At its meeting in Albany Friday, an applicant named Paul said two competing applicants started their business the week of the application deadline and somehow ended up in the top 20 in the lottery queue.

“We’ve been a company since 2021 and applied on October 4th and were applicant number 62. Now we’re coincidentally in a lottery as number 2,026. You have to understand how this feels in our shoes,” he said. “It is completely unfair to get people invested after three years and then tell them ‘Hold on! No, never mind.'”

Dr. Jennifer Gilbert Jenkins, OCM Board: “There are too many people that have been told that if they didn’t get a number that was low enough that their application was denied.”
Board member Dr. Jennifer Jenkins pressed the board’s executive director.

“We have not issued denials yet,” said Chris Alexander, executive director of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management. “No, not everybody is going to get a license. We have 7,000 retail applications. The state cannot support 7,000 dispensaries.”
“I will continue to push back because I think we have more than 7,000 liquor stores in this state. and we probably have more than 7,000 illegal stores in this state,” Dr. Jenkins said. “If you walk around right now the issue isn’t that there isn’t enough market for us to have all these legal stores, the issue is we still haven’t closed down all the illegal stores.”

The board is concerned about flooding the market as in other states where there are so many, no one makes money.

And several speakers at the meeting supported that position.

“There has to be a balance,” said Trent Haskins. “We can’t put out a bunch of dispensaries right away. It doesn’t work like that. As good as it sounds to everybody, it doesn’t work like that.”