ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — The Cannabis Control Board gave out 15 licenses to New York businesses Monday, bringing the state one step closer to selling recreational marijuana.

The newly-licensed processors, one of which is located in Rochester, are the first able to take marijuana grown by NY farmers and turn it into consumer cannabis products, which will then be sold at soon-to-open retail dispensaries.

These “Adult-Use Conditional Processor licenses” were given out through the first-in-the-nation Seeding Opportunity Initiative. This initiative works to ensure the first adult-use cannabis sellers are 1) Grown in New York and 2) Sold by individuals who either have a prior cannabis-related criminal offense, or have a direct family member convicted of a cannabis-related crime.

“Processors aren’t just an important part of the cannabis supply chain, they are creators, who take a raw plant and transform it into tested, consistent, high-quality products that consumers can trust,” Tremaine Wright, Chair of the Cannabis Control Board, said in a statement. “When we open New York’s first stores, owned and operated by New Yorkers harmed by the misguided criminalization of cannabis, the shelves will be lined with infused edibles, topical creams and concentrated oils. None of those products would be possible without these first processors launching New York’s cannabis industry.”

The board also approved 19 more “Adult-use Cannabis Conditional Cultivator Licenses” Monday, bringing the total number of licensed growers to 242.

To qualify for the processor license, business also needed to have a Cannabinoid Hemp Processor license. Once chosen, the businesses are required to participate in a mentorship program designed to provide entrepreneurship opportunities, instill environmentally-sustainable practices in the budding industry, and ensure those with cannabis-related offenses are able to enter the industry.

“New York is launching our cannabis industry the right way, and our cannabis processors are an integral part of that,” Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander said in a statement. “These processors aren’t just expanding their own businesses, they are committed to also mentoring the next generation of cannabis processors. They’ll be teaching vital manufacturing skills to those with a passion for cannabis who will take our state’s industry to the next level. New York’s entire cannabis ecosystem will create opportunities for those who have been shut out of jobs and industry, and will bring those skills to communities across the state.” 

In addition to licensing, the board approved interim regulations for NY cannabis labs, which are responsible for ensuring public health and safety in these new products. The labs run quality-control on all products, checking that they aren’t contaminated by dangerous pesticides, heavy metals, or other “adulterations,” according to the Office of Cannabis Management.

“New Yorkers should know that while we’re moving quickly to get this industry off the ground, we’re making sure that it will deliver products they can trust,” Alexander said.

These interim regulations expand NY labs that were already testing medical marijuana, allowing them to legally check adult-use products as well. Laboratories interested in conducting testing on medical or adult-use cannabis are also now able to apply to do so, expanding the number of laboratories to meet the needs of the industry.

The first sales are anticipated to happen before the end of 2022, according to the NY Office of Cannabis Management.