There’s plenty of competition for New York’s first retail pot licenses


There’s a lot of competition for the first retail cannabis licenses in New York.

The state received more than six applications for every license it will hand out in the first round of licensing. That’s 903 applicants in all for the 150 Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary licenses it plans to issue.

Western New York will be getting 11 recreational cannabis stores among the first 150 conditional licenses authorized by the state.

Just 11 licenses will be given for use in Erie, Niagara, Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties during this round of licensing. That works out to one recreational dispensary for roughly every 450 square miles, if they are spaced evenly.

But the field will only get more crowded and more competitive as time goes on.

More licenses will continue to open up and, eventually, operators from outside New York State will enter the market – sometimes huge conglomerates with deep experience and even deeper pockets. It leaves local mom-and-pop operators excited but anxious about what is to come.

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The first round of applications for recreational cannabis stores in New York closed this week. And while much has been uncertain about the legal cannabis retail trade in New York, one thing is for sure: There will be plenty of disappointed pot entrepreneurs this time around.

That’s why the state’s Office of Cannabis Management has vowed to support would-be retailers every step of the way.

“We’re creating opportunities across New York. These licenses will allow the first adult-use cannabis to sell cannabis grown by New York family farmers,” said Chris Alexander, executive director of the state’s Office of Cannabis Management. “And we’re not just handing out licenses, either.”

The state’s Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund is a public-private partnership aimed at positioning social equity entrepreneurs to succeed in the cannabis industry. During the first round of licensing, applicants or one of their family members must have been arrested in New York for a pot-related offense before March 31, 2021, and have run a profitable business. Those who receive licenses will have access to real estate and financing through the fund.

“We’re securing real estate, building stores out with the support of the social equity cannabis investment fund. This is an incredible opportunity,” said Alexander. “We’re supporting our entrepreneurs with capital, with real estate and a real opportunity to build a brand, a customer base and get their business off the ground in the right way.”

Convicted of a marijuana-related offense?  Erie County DA streamlines process for reducing, expunging records

Erie County residents convicted of marijuana-related offenses could have their convictions reduced or expunged in a month if they follow an expedited process that starts with attending an informational clinic, District Attorney John J. Flynn said.

New York will also grant licenses to qualifying nonprofits, but those nonprofits won’t have access to real estate through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York or New York’s $200 million social equity cannabis investment fund.

The state had expected its first dispensaries to open by late fall. Now, Alexander at the Office of Cannabis Management has said it would not take place until mid-2023, Syracuse.com reported.

It’s not yet clear when applications will open for non-conditional licenses. Even after the program opens up to non-offenders, there will continue to be concessions for those who have been negatively affected by the War on Drugs, the Office of Cannabis Management has said, but it has not specified how that will play out.

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