“I feel like you can never get too excited until you make your first sale. There’s just been so much disappointment.”
By Rosalind Adams, THE CITY
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Hundreds of people impacted by cannabis-related criminal charges will finally be allowed to move forward with the pot-shops they had already been granted licenses for—if the terms of a settlement agreement filed Tuesday are approved.
With marijuana legalization in 2021, the state created a special class of license called the Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary licenses (CAURD). The aim was to reward those most harmed by decades of harsh drugs laws with the first opportunity to enter the legal market.
That goal stalled in August, when a group of veterans sued the state, arguing that the CAURD program violated the law by not offering licenses to other social equity groups like women and veterans at the same time. An injunction preventing any new stores from opening has been in place since then.
At the time of the injunction, the state had already awarded 463 CAURD licenses, but just 23 dispensaries had opened. Thirty other licensees were close to opening dispensaries when the injunction halted their plans. Meanwhile, more and more illegal storefronts were popping up to fill the demand, as many as 8,000 by some estimates.
“The store is finished, we’re ready to go and now this week we get hit with this,” Carson Grant, a CAURD licensee in Queens who has been unable to open, told THE CITY back in August. “It’s just waiting, waiting, waiting.”
Nearly four months later, the Cannabis Control Board of the Office of Cannabis Management voted on Monday to approve the settlement agreement to resolve the case before it was made public on Tuesday.
“Today, we are one step closer to resolving litigation brought forth by equity entrepreneurs and our medical operators who felt that they were being left behind,” said Chris Alexander, the executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management in a statement on Monday.
Anthony Crapanzano of Staten Island, another stymied CAURD licensee who was close to opening back in August, told THE CITY that he welcomed the terms of the settlement agreement and hopes to open soon. So far, he said he’s invested $1.6 million in his operation, including $200,000 in legal fees, which he’s eager to begin to recoup
“Once we have the 100 percent go ahead, we’re ready,” said Crapanzano. “We can start delivery next week if they allow us to.”
Other licensees remain more circumspect.
“I’m excited, I guess,” said Zymia Lewis, a licensee in the mid-Hudson region who hoped to open a delivery location before opening a brick-and-mortar store. Lewis’ plans have been stalled by injunctions in two different court cases since she was first awarded a CAURD license in May.
“I feel like you can never get too excited until you make your first sale,” said Lewis. “There’s just been so much disappointment.”
Chris Kuilan, a CAURD licensee in Manhattan, also said he was wary about what happens next.
“I’m hoping this is a step in the right direction,” Kuilan told THE CITY. “What I learned really fast in this industry is that anything can happen at any time. I still feel like we’re in limbo until we get final answers.”
The state judge has ten days to approve the settlement.
As part of the agreement, the four plaintiffs in the case have each been awarded a provisional adult-use dispensary license by the Office of Cannabis Management. Three of the four plaintiffs have approved locations for their dispensaries, the agreement said.
But that move—awarding licenses to people who sue the state—could set a precedent that encourages more people to sue, said Jeffrey Hoffman, a cannabis lawyer in New York.
“We’re about to see many more lawsuits,” said Hoffman.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.
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