ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monday was a historic day in New York for adult-use marijuana, but it also brought disappointment for some would-be dispensaries, including those in the greater Rochester area.
The Office of Cannabis Management approved the first conditional adult-use retail dispensary licenses, called Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CUARD). But our region won’t be getting any just yet. A lawsuit (Variscite NY One, Inc. v. State of New York et al.) making its way through the courts has one U.S. District Judge putting a temporary halt on licenses in certain parts of New York.
Variscite is an out-of-state company with a presence throughout New York. After being denied permits in five regions, Variscite filed a lawsuit claiming that the state’s choice to favor New York residents over those from out-of-state violates constitutional interstate commerce protections.
Due to the injunction, Britni and Jayson Tantalo of Flower City Dispensary are not able to open fully their adult-use operation. “Just devastated. It’s unfortunate,” said Britni.
General Counsel of MJI Solutions Aleece Burgio says there are five regions in the state that are now stuck in limbo — the Finger Lakes, Western, and Central New York, the Mid-Hudson area, and Brooklyn.
“Those territories are not going to be awarded card licenses until this decision has been made,” said Burgio.
An owner of one New York company called is challenging provisions in the law, claiming a constitutional violation with the application process.
“This license that’s completely tied into this social equity fund […] had two very big requirements,” she said.
The law required retail cannabis dispensaries to be given to owners who have been impacted by past drug laws — or be tied to someone who has been — in this state. That plaintiff has a prior drug conviction in Michigan.
“There is no timeline as of right now to when those will be awarded, and it’s about 63 licenses that they’re going to be waiting out on,” said Burgio.
The Tantalos say this waiting game is only further hurting our area, which has suffered enough.
“I think Rochester desperately needs it, so this is just another hiccup to prevent us from progressing in this space,” said Britni.
The pair said that it’s a shame only the illicit market will be in operation, versus something legal and regulated. “So my hope is we can move past this injunction,” said Britani.
The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) said they will not comment on pending litigation — but did ask stakeholders across the state to be patient as they work through the process. OCM said they received over 900 applications, and Monday approved 36 provisional licenses, 28 individual licenses, and eight non-profit applications.