New York Governor Says She’s ‘Very Fed Up’ With Slow Marijuana Retailer Licensing Rollout

The governor of New York says she’s “very fed up with how long it is taking” to expand the state’s recreational marijuana market with more licensed businesses, revealing that she recently urged regulators to “go back to the drawing board” to approve hundreds of new retailers.

Tensions are high in the Empire State, as marijuana license applicants voice frustration over delayed approvals and the abrupt cancellation of a Cannabis Control Board (CCB) meeting on Wednesday where regulators were expected to grant additional approvals.

But when Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) caught wind of the fact that the board was only prepared to sign off on three new licenses, her office intervened, she said during an event in Buffalo on Friday.

“My team got involved and said, ‘No, go back to the drawing board. Work harder. Get this done.’ And no, I’m not satisfied with the pace,” she said, as Spectrum News 1 reported.

She said that applicants who are still waiting for the board’s sign-off are “absolutely right” to be frustrated.

“I’ll tell you right now, I’m very fed up with how long it is taking to get these approvals,” Hochul said. However, she acknowledged that regulators are not entirely at fault, pointing out that litigation from “larger conglomerates” that’s led to courts the licensing process for months at a time has also delayed the process.

Officials were also set to consider proposed rules allowing home cultivation of cannabis for adults at Wednesday’s meeting that was cancelled.

Meanwhile, the governor also released a budget plan this month that calls for the elimination of a THC potency tax, aiming to reduce costs for consumers in a way that could make the regulated market more competitive against illicit operators.

Also, as New York works to expand the state’s marijuana market, a bill filed in the Assembly this month would empower individual municipal governments to shut down unlicensed cannabis businesses and seize their products.

Over a dozen new cannabis retailers opened in December alone following a settlement agreement lifting an injunction that had imposed a months-long licensing blockade.

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Separately, the state’s Department of Labor last month published dozens of sample job descriptions for positions in the legal industry, which officials said are intended to help companies streamline hiring processes and allow prospective employees to assess their qualifications to work in various roles within the emerging cannabis industry.

Hochul, meanwhile, signed legislation in November that attempts to make it somewhat easier for financial institutions to work with state-licensed cannabis clients. She also signed a separate bill that’s meant to provide tax relief to New York City marijuana businesses that are currently blocked from making federal deductions under an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code known as 280E.

While Hochul signed an earlier budget bill in 2022 that included provisions allow state-level cannabis business tax deductions—a partial remedy to the ongoing federal issue—New York City has its own tax laws that weren’t affected by that change. The new measure is meant to fill that policy gap.

Hochul also recently vetoed legislation that would have allowed hemp seeds to be included in animal feed for pets, horses and camelids such as llamas and alpacas.

In September, 66 state lawmakers—about a third of the entire state legislature—also wrote to Hochul urging her to sign a bill that would allow licensed marijuana producers to sell products to tribal retailers. The plan would offer a release valve to hundreds of cannabis farmers who are currently sitting on surpluses but have no place to sell their products. Last month, however, Hochul vetoed that bill.

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