In a significant development on Friday, a federal judge from the Northern District of New York, Anne Nardacci, appointed by President Biden, dismissed attempts to halt the licensing process for marijuana in New York. This decision comes in the wake of recent criticisms by Governor Kathy Hochul, who labeled the state's legal cannabis market roll-out as a “disaster.”
Two entrepreneurs had filed a lawsuit, arguing that New York's licensing rules unjustly favored in-state residents, violating the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs contended that the state's stipulation, giving “extra priority” to applicants with past cannabis convictions in New York, provided an unfair advantage to residents. However, Judge Nardacci rejected these claims, emphasizing the potential harm to the adult-use cannabis industry if the roll-out were further delayed.
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, signed into law on March 31, 2021, legalized adult-use cannabis for individuals aged 21 and older in New York. Additionally, it led to the removal or expunging of nearly 400,000 cannabis-related arrests and convictions. While New York residency is not a requirement for cannabis market participation, applicants with a New York state cannabis conviction receive preferential treatment.
The legal cannabis market in New York has faced challenges, with thousands of illegal marijuana storefronts operating without licenses, compared to fewer than 60 licensed dispensaries. Governor Hochul, who assumed office in August 2021, criticized the market's roll-out, stating that the legislation lacked “teeth” and was not crafted for success.
Despite Hochul's expectations of reviewing 400 licenses, the Cannabis Control Board approved only three new retail locations, leading to concerns about unlicensed sellers operating freely without paying taxes to the state. The slow progress in licensing has raised questions about the effectiveness of New York's adult-use cannabis industry implementation.
This story was originally covered by Fox News.