BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Legal pot shops could soon open in Western New York with licenses being distributed as early as Monday. This comes after a multi-month legal challenge.
The ruling allows four regions to begin distributing licenses. There is a still a block on the Finger Lakes region.
Conditional licenses are available for people with a marijuana conviction before it was legalized. The application process will then open to all New Yorkers as more regulations are implemented.
“It takes some time once you win a license to operationalize. These businesses are expensive to operate, they’re expensive to build out, the state had promised some funding to the justice involved individuals to help them get their stores opened,” Lauren Rudick, managing principal of Rudick Law Group, told News 4.
This rollout has been extensive because New York is allowing people with prior marijuana convictions before the law was changed to open the first dispensaries. This is in an effort to promote social equity for those disproportionately affected by drug laws, according to Ruddick.
“At the same time, there have been delays in getting that funding to be able to give it to the applicants who won. There have been significant delays in the rollout of the program so that first advantage we thought those card applicants would get they haven’t been able to enjoy yet,” she added.
With this legal battle hurdled, the focus is turning to enforcement, cracking down on pot shops operating without a license.
“I think what’s going to really make some movement and what’s going to be very persuasive is when we have enforcement against the landlords. That’s when we are really going to see these businesses be squeezed if there is no longer a hospitable venue for them to engage in their illicit activities,” Rudick added.
There are only four regulated dispensaries operating in New York State, according to Rudick. There are no licensed dispensaries in Western New York. Legal dispensaries will have Office of Cannabis Management signage, including a sticker near the door, according to Rudick.
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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.