State lawmakers will hold public hearing in October about cannabis market rollout

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ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s rollout of the adult use cannabis market continues to be met with more challenges and lawsuits. State Senator Jeremy Cooney announced Thursday that lawmakers will hold a public hearing next month, to address some of these challenges.

The hearing is set for Oct. 30 in Albany. Cannabis cultivators, processors, and retailers are invited to speak along with people from regulatory agencies.

“We believe that it would be a disservice, and irresponsible to these New Yorkers if we didn’t look at the full picture of what’s happening in our cannabis marketplace,” said Cooney.

As chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Cannabis, Cooney wants to speed up the licensing process to open cannabis dispensaries all over the Finger Lakes region. Next month’s hearing is to address the challenges standing in the way.

“It’s important that we have the full picture before making any sort of Legislative action in terms of a bill, a budgetary allocation so that we can better help this situation and come from a point of knowledge versus a point that we are currently at which is trying to figure out how to move forward,” said Cooney.

The state Legislature legalized recreational cannabis in March of 2021 but dispensaries have been slow to open, especially in the Finger Lakes region, because of legal challenges.

Last month, a State Supreme Court judge temporarily halted the state from issuing any new cannabis licenses. One challenge comes from a lawsuit filed by 4 disabled military veterans. They claim the Office of Cannabis Management prioritized licenses for people with prior cannabis convictions. This setback continues to frustrate dispensary owners still waiting to open.

Licenses are still valid for dispensaries that are already operating or close to opening their doors.

A public hearing on Oct. 30 will discuss that lawsuit, along with other challenges to the legal cannabis market. Cannabis cultivators, processors, retailers are invited to speak, along with people from regulatory agencies.

“We’re just trying to do what the state has asked us to do you know being “CAURD” applicants, and licensees and trying to move forward but you know we keep getting these roadblocks from you know in my opinion greedy individuals,” said Ryan Martin, Owner of MJ Dispensary in Henrietta.

To Cooney, this public hearing is long overdue. He says many local residents are frustrated by the lack of progress in the cannabis rollout.

“We believe it would be a disservice and irresponsible to these New Yorkers if we didn’t look at the full picture of what’s happening in our cannabis marketplace both upstate, where I am, and also in New York City and the surrounding areas,” Cooney said.

Cooney is also the co-chair of the Marijuana Task Force as part of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus.

“We have a responsibility as state lawmakers to ask the tough questions. To put things on the record and hold our partners accountable in the work that needs to be done certainly in the short term over the next 5 to 6 months, but also in the long term as we try to consider what the implication would be for a natural cannabis marketplace,” said Cooney.

Seven dispensary licenses were approved in the Finger Lakes region last May. Those approvals came after a court injunction, which blocked the state from issuing licenses in the Finger Lakes region because of a lawsuit filed by a Michigan company, was lifted. So far, none have opened.