A federal judge in New York on Friday, February 2nd, ruled against delaying the distribution of marijuana licenses following Governor Kathy Hochul’s sharp criticism of the state’s legal cannabis market launch as a “disaster.”
Northern District Judge Anne Nardacci, a Biden appointee, dismissed a lawsuit filed by entrepreneurs claiming that the state’s cannabis licensing regulations discriminated against non-New York residents, contradicting the U.S. Constitution.
This decision came amidst various challenges faced by state cannabis programs under the Dormant Commerce Clause, which seeks to prevent states from enacting laws that unduly burden interstate commerce.
Judge Nardacci highlighted the considerable investments made by thousands of cannabis entrepreneurs in New York, emphasizing that halting the licensing process would do more harm to the burgeoning adult-use cannabis sector.
“The balance of equities tips in Defendants’ favor. Defendants have laid out the significant harm Plaintiffs’ requested injunction would cause to New York’s adult-use cannabis industry.” Nardacci stated,
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, enacted on March 31, 2021, has not only legalized recreational marijuana for individuals 21 and older in New York State but also led to the removal of nearly 400,000 cannabis-related criminal records.
Despite the open application process for licenses, New York residents can receive additional priority based on specific criteria, including past cannabis convictions in the state, a point of contention for the plaintiffs who saw this as preferential treatment.
The legal landscape contrasts sharply with the reality on the ground, where illegal marijuana storefronts vastly outnumber the fewer than 60 licensed dispensaries currently in operation.
Governor Hochul, speaking with The Buffalo News, criticized the state’s legal cannabis market debut, labeling it a “disaster” and attributing the flawed rollout to legislation passed before her tenure.
The governor said, “It’s not every street corner. It is every other storefront. It is insane.”
Hochul’s administration had hoped to review 400 retail and grower licenses, yet faced setbacks with the Cannabis Control Board prepared to approve only three new retail locations, exacerbating the issue of unregulated sellers.
As per Buffalo News, this slow progress has led to unlicensed vendors brazenly selling marijuana, evading state taxes, and operating with minimal concern for legal repercussions.