New York state on Wednesday began widening the pool of potential applicants in the latest effort to expand the legal cannabis market in the state.
The Office of Cannabis Management plans to issue as many as 1,000 licenses, including for cultivation, retail and processing. Licenses had been available on a limited basis since February 2021 to nonprofits and those with previous marijuana convictions.
Gov. Kathy Hochul acknowledges that the sale of illegal weed in shops has been tough to eradicate, but said she is committed to cracking down on the black market.
"I've got a job to do, and it's going to work ultimately, but it has been frustrating," she said Wednesday during an interview on NY1's "Mornings on 1."
She said authorities have already seized 8,500 pounds of illegal cannabis products, estimated to be worth $42 million.
The state will continue to prioritize equity in licensing, with the goal of 50% of licenses going to Social and Economic Equality applicants. To qualify for that designation, the applicant must be an individual from a community disproportionately impacted, a distressed farmer, a service-disabled veteran-owned business, a minority-owned business or a woman-owned business.
"We expect to be tens of thousands of individuals - the growers, the distributors, opportunities for retail - so they'll be able to apply starting today. There will be a process where individuals will be put into a lottery and they'll be selected that way," Hochul said.
Hochul on Wednesday also expressed her frustration with the challenges encountered in establishing the legal cannabis market within the state.
In August, a New York judge temporarily blocked the state from issuing retail licenses after a lawsuit from four veterans argued regulators were wrongly prioritizing applicants with drug convictions.
She also cited enforcement against illegal cannabis shops and lawsuits as "hurdles" in getting the legal marijuana market set up.
The two-month application period will close at 5 p.m. Dec. 4.