State Supreme Court judge grants exemptions to injunction in cannabis lawsuit
A handful of recreational cannabis retailers, whose business plans were stopped in their tracks by a lawsuit against the state's licensing program, have been given new life.
A veterans group is suing the state over its licensing system, which gives preference to people previously convicted of cannabis-related offenses. A judge in the state Supreme Court in Kingston Friday granted exemptions to his injunction that stopped the licensing processing, while the lawsuit proceeds.
Before a courtroom packed full of nervous cannabis entrepreneurs and their attorneys, state Supreme Court Judge Kevin Bryant ruled that 23 newly licensed cannabis dispensaries can start doing business right away. Jeremy Rivera, of Queens, is one of them.
"We're hoping that with the decision today, we'll be able to open pretty soon," said Rivera, of Terp Bros Cannabis Dispensary in Astoria.
Last week, Bryant granted an injunction that halted recreational dispensary licensing while a lawsuit proceeds. The lawsuit brought by four disabled veterans says the state's licensing policy, which gives past cannabis offenders a first shot at licenses, is unfair and must change. The Office of Cannabis Management requested those exemptions Bryant just approved for licensees who were fully approved before Aug. 7.
Afterward, attorneys for several dispensaries said the OCM should submit a longer list of exemptions for Bryant to consider before the next court date, Sept. 15. There are still close to 400 licensees who still cannot open.
One dispensary owner said they had been waiting weeks for the OCM to come do a final walk-through of their Woodbury location, which would complete the process for them. They're hoping for an exemption next month.
"Right now, I'm still kind of numb. The judge then ruled, we think that works in our favor. We're just staying patient. It's all we can do right now. It's out of our control," said Kareem Haynesworth, of Big Gas Dispensary in Woodbury.
Court staff told News 12 they've had extra security whenever they've had proceedings at the courthouse regarding this issue because of all the people who attend. They said there were no issues the last time, and there was no major disturbances Friday.
News 12 reached out to the OCM about the other licensees' hopes that the agency would put another list of recommended exemptions before Bryant. A spokesperson says the OCM is still assessing the best path forward and is still committed to all the licensees' success.