How to open a Dispensary

On March 31, 2021, New York State legalized adult-use cannabis by passing the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA). The legislation creates a new Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) governed by a Cannabis Control Board
to oversee and implement the law (collectively referred to as “the OCM”). The OCM will issue licenses and develop regulations outlining how and when businesses can participate in the new industry. A major focus of the MRTA is social and economic equity. The MRTA incentivizes participation in the new industry for individuals disproportionally impacted by cannabis prohibition, automatically expunges an individual’s past marijuana convictions, and invests 40% of the adult-use cannabis tax revenue toward rebuilding communities harmed by the War on Drugs.

The Cannabis Control Board, in consultation with the Chief Equity Officer and the OCM’s Executive Director, and after receiving public input, will create and implement a social and economic equity plan to:

  • Actively promote applicants from communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition, and promote racial, ethnic, and gender diversity when issuing licenses for adult- use cannabis-related activities, including mentoring potential applicants and prioritizing applications from applicants who are members of communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition or who qualify as a minority or women-owned business, distressed farmer, or service-disabled veteran.
  • Create an incubator program to encourage social and economic equity applicants to apply for licensure and provide direct support in counseling services, education, small business coaching, financial planning, and compliance assistance.

The MRTA establishes a goal to award 50% of all adult-use licenses to social and economic equity applicants. Social and economic equity applicants include individuals who have lived in communities disproportionally impacted by the War on Drugs and other underrepresented groups including minority and women owned businesses, distressed farmers, and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. The definitions of these groups as set out in the MRTA are outlined below. More details will be prescribed in future regulations promulgated by the Cannabis Control Board.

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