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Guide to the Various Cannabis License Types in New York

What are the three types of cannabis licenses available in New York State, and how do I get one?

With the roll out of Cuomo’s adult-use legislation in 2021, the sale of weed became legal throughout the state of New York. From then on possession of up to three ounces of cannabis for non-prescription, recreational (adult) use has been entirely legal. But, as anyone following the roll out knows, getting a New York cannabis license, whether for cultivation, processing and manufacturing, or retail, has been a slow and often interrupted process, proceeding in fits and starts.  In this blog post we’ll take you through the three main cannabis licenses in New York–a conditional cultivator’s license, a processing and manufacturing license, and a dispensary license–when to get them and how to apply.

Adult-use Cannabis Dispensary Licenses and How to Get One

Initially, the restrictive requirements around procuring a marijuana dispensary license in New York were justice-tinged and limiting. The state’s CAURD program (Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary) gave preferential application rights to the formerly justice-involved who could also prove two years of business operations and experience, until such preference was brought before a New York court and deemed unconstitutional. Even now, with upwards of four hundred licenses issued, only twenty-three operating CAURD-licensed cannabis dispensaries are open throughout the state. This has created a void in which illicit sellers have stepped in and undercut the legal sector by selling at a lower, untaxed price. This is all set to change, however, as of October 5th, when the state plans to move forward with the admission of applicants for regular adult-use licenses. Expect more information on how to apply and what to expect on the state website, ny.gov, coming soon.

The Cannabis Conditional Cultivator’s License and How to Get One

Like CAURD, criteria for a conditional cannabis cultivator’s license in New York have been strictly limited to those previously authorized to grow hemp under the Department of Agriculture and Markets Industrial Hemp Research Pilot program, or, as stated on ny.gov:

“On June 23, 2022, the Cannabis Control Board (Board) approved the application and opening of the application window for Conditional Processors beginning June 28, 2022 through August 31, 2022. Please be aware that the Office of Cannabis Management (Office) is diligently working on the roll-out of additional license opportunities for the broader Adult-Use Program and will be sharing more information soon.”

As suggested, after the most recent application window closed on August 31, 2022, additional applications opportunities have been on hold. Stay tuned, though, as with all the recent movement in the sector, opportunities for a weed license in New York may open up sooner rather than later.

The Cannabis Manufacturing and Processing License and How to Get One

Similarly to the cultivator’s license, eligibility for applications to a manufacturing and processing license hinged on previously authorized permission to process hemp in the state of New York. Read for yourself here:

“On February 22, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law S.8084-A/A.9283-A, creating an adult-use conditional processor license. This license will allow businesses who are already licensed to process cannabinoid hemp in the Cannabinoid Hemp Program to apply for a license to process adult-use cannabis products in the Adult-Use Program. This application opportunity is only available to active cannabinoid hemp processor license-holders who applied for their license before January 1, 2022.”

Worth noticing is the time-sensitivity of the prior license (before January, 2022), as well as the time-sensitivity of the application window itself, which closed August 31, 2022. Also, per the state website–although a processing and manufacturing license enabled legal distribution to begin with, from June 1, 2023 onward, legal distribution moving forward will require a separate licensure, as stated here:

“Pursuant to the Cannabis Law, adult-use conditional processor licensees will be permitted to process cannabis products containing over 0.3% THC for the Adult-Use Cannabis Program. The license will also be authorized for the distribution of cannabis products to duly licensed adult-use retail dispensaries until June 1, 2023. After June 1, 2023, conditional processors seeking to distribute cannabis products, will be required to apply for a separate distributor license to engage in this activity.” 

Getting a Cannabis License in New York City

There are no application requirements specific to the city of New York, as opposed to New York State. All compliance and application regulations hold equally for both. So for residents looking to meet their New York City cannabis license, follow the steps above.

Considering the Alternatives

Because vertical integration is illegal throughout the state of New York, controlling all stages of the seed-to-sale process is not only difficult–it’s legally forbidden. We see this reflected in a licensing process requiring separate licenses for cultivation, processing, and retail distribution. There are strict ownership requirements that even restrict lending. Does the process to get a cannabis license in New York seem hopeless? Fear not. You can collaborate with an existing cannabis operator to bring your brand to life. This “contract manufacturing” or “whitelabel” model is the asset-light key to success for many successful and recognizable brands across the country. 

Flourish has your software needs for syncing with Biotrack–the state’s chosen track and trace platform, pending OCM’s approval – covered, as well as the know-how to help you navigate the separate and web-like compliance requirements in the state of New York.

Flourish helps Cannabis operators in New York and nationwide with an all-in-one solution that meets your state's evolving requirements.

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