New York Cannabis Regulators Confront New Hurdles & Rulings

Western NY Cannabis Retailing

Western NY Cannabis Retailing

The Office of Cannabis Management in New York recently announced a policy change to double conditional dispensaries in the state but zoning issues are making it difficult.

This is because, according to the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, shops cannot be located within 200 feet or 500 feet of a place of worship or a school. In the meantime, the OCM issued guidelines for conditional adult-use retail dispensaries, which state that these establishments cannot be in areas with more than 20,000 people within a 1,000-foot radius of another marijuana vendor. According to the guidance, dispensaries cannot be located close to one another in communities with fewer than 2,000 people.

OCM New York Local Zoning Regulations:

The buffer zones between dispensaries are currently in the agency’s draft regulations, according to a spokesperson for OCM, but they have not yet received final approval from the Cannabis Control Board. A mechanism for the CCB to bypass the buffer is also part of the proposed rules, according to the spokesperson, “if it was determined it was in the public convenience and advantage to do so.”

Is there enough space for all the New York cannabis dispensaries?

It’s conceivable that only CAURD dispensaries will be allowed to open in Manhattan if OCM doesn’t modify or remove its proposed buffer zones. When OCM revealed plans to increase the number of CAURD dispensaries by two, NY Cannabis Insider created a rough map of 1,000-foot radii spaces in Manhattan and discovered it would be challenging to fit many more than 44 – the current allotment – in the borough, even if that were the only spatial limitation.

However, with the addition of MRTA regulations prohibiting the placement of dispensaries close to places of worship and schools, it is probably impossible to do so without an OCM override. All highly populated areas, like Long Island, face the same conundrum, and in the end, the objectives might not coincide with the zoning regulations.

Need help navigating the ever changing New York cannabis industry?

What is the OCM’s status on buffer zones?

Some businesses have purposefully leased or purchased dispensary space in legal states with buffer zones where the location would severely restrict the locations at which rivals could open due to a combination of zoning regulations.

In states where cannabis is legal, some officials are now considering loosening buffer zones. The buffer zones OCM suggested have not yet been given final approval because they believe it might be best to let local communities choose where to locate dispensaries rather than establishing a general rule or toxicity limits.

New York Issues a ruling for Western NY Cannabis Retailing:

The district court injunction from November prohibiting the state from issuing licences for retail cannabis dispensaries was modified by judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit so that it now only pertains to the Finger Lakes area. The decision enables the state Office of Cannabis Management to grant licences in Central New York, Mid-Hudson, Brooklyn, and Western New York.

In a statement released on March 28th, Governor Kathy Hochul expressed her “pleasure” that the court had limited the injunction. She continued, “For the first time, New Yorkers will have access to safer, high-quality, adult-use cannabis products in nearly every area of the state. I’m determined to keep New York at the forefront of the nation’s secure and equitable cannabis market approach.

But earlier this month, a group of significant cannabis businesses filed a lawsuit in Albany’s State Supreme Court challenging the limitations to make applications available to everyone. According to the lawsuit, the Office of Cannabis Management lacks the legal authority to impose the limitations.

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