How to Open a Dispensary in New York

New York has long been a hub for business, entertainment, and culture. As such, the fact that New York is now the 15th U.S. state to legalize adult-use cannabis is sure to have far-reaching implications. While this news is inspiring, hopeful entrepreneurs must remain patient when opening dispensaries in New York. 

As of summer 2021, cannabis in New York is undergoing profound changes. The Empire State is preparing to shift from a medical cannabis model to a hybrid industry serving medical patients and recreational customers. Not only is this overhaul going to redefine the cannabis culture of New York, but it is also creating new parameters for the business world. 

If you want to open a dispensary in New York, you can utilize critical bits of info to the stage for a future license application. Read on to learn how to open a dispensary in New York.

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The New York Medical & Adult-Use Cannabis Markets

Like the rest of the cannabis industry, the New York market is young and undergoing substantial changes. New York first legalized medical cannabis in 2014 - the first medical dispensary licenses were awarded in 2015. Yet, primarily due to the progressive nature of New York City, discussions turned almost immediately to legalizing recreational cannabis. 

Today, New York state has a total of 9 cannabis companies with dispensary licenses. In turn, these business entities control the 36 operational medical cannabis dispensaries in the state. New York has over 3,000 registered medical practitioners that can issue medical marijuana cards. Around 150,000 medical cannabis patients fuel the current market. 

In March 2021, Governor Cuomo of New York signed legislation that legalized adult-use cannabis. Yet, it was not until July 2021 that New York signed the legalization of adult-use cannabis into law. The historic "Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act" states that adults can legally possess up to 3 oz of flowers and 24 grams of concentrates. It also begins to lay the framework for the future of New York cannabis.

The Future New York Cannabis Market

If you are interested in opening a cannabis dispensary in New York, please bear in mind that things are changing quickly. Yet, you can anticipate a good deal of the future business climate by carefully reading New York's Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act

The Department of Health (DOH) currently oversees the medical cannabis industry in New York. The DOH also led the medical dispensary license application process in 2015. With the current shift towards the adult-use market, future applications will be handled by the New York Office of Cannabis Management (OCM).

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What Types of Dispensary Licenses are Available in New York?

Thus far, cannabis business opportunities in New York have been minimal. As things stand today, New York only has 36 cannabis dispensaries for a population of 20 million residents. While these figures will undoubtedly change with the adult-use market, there is no doubt New York has ample room for expansion. 

While we don't know the exact parameters for the adult-use market, some good info is available through the OCM concerning what types of licenses will be issued. 

  1. Adult-Use Microbusiness Licenses in New York will be offered to certain applicants. New York will issue the licenses to vertically integrated cannabis businesses that operate under certain size limits. 
  2. Adult-Use Retail Dispensary Licenses will be the bulk of the recreational dispensary licenses issued in New York. It remains unclear how many of these retail licenses will be allotted. 
  3. Adult-Use On-Site Consumption Licenses are special retail sales licenses. With these licenses, dispensaries will have areas onsite dedicated to cannabis consumption. 
  4. Adult-Use Delivery Licenses will be issued to people who do not "have an interest in or own another adult-use license type." As such, delivery businesses in New York will operate independently of dispensaries. 
  5. Registered Organization Adult-Use Cultivator, Processor, Distributor, Retail Dispensary Licenses are classic vertically-integrated cannabis business licenses. There appear to be specific regulations on the types of products the dispensaries can sell.

How Do I Apply for a Dispensary License in New York?

As of early August 2021, the New York cannabis market is still regulated under the 2014 law developed for the medical cannabis industry. Therefore, the exact parameters for applying for an adult-use dispensary license in New York are still largely undefined. 

The application process for medical cannabis dispensary licenses in 2015 can give you some idea of what to expect for the adult-use market. 

When applying in 2015, each applicant had to pay a non-refundable application fee of $10,000 as well as a refundable $200,000 registration fee. The second fee was returned if applicants were not awarded licenses. 

Application protocol for New York medical dispensaries in 2015 closely resembles those in other states. Licenses were awarded according to a point system that gauged factors such as compliance, security, finances, location, and the "moral character" of the applicants. 

With the passage of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in 2021, the state of New York created "a first in the nation comprehensive regulatory structure to oversee the licensure, cultivation, production, distribution, sale, and taxation of medical cannabis, adult-use cannabis, and cannabinoid hemp." While it is exciting to see all these different facets of the cannabis industry regulated by the OCM, this organization is still in its infancy.

At this point, we know that the OCM will be in charge of issuing adult-use cannabis business licenses. The finer details of the application process are still to come.

Advice for Cannabis Dispensary Applicants in New York

It can't be denied that the New York cannabis industry has terrific potential. Sources such as The New York Times estimate the adult-use market could generate $4.2 billion annually. Yet, without a specific time frame in place for the recreational market, the best that hopeful entrepreneurs can do right now is get p. By getting your "ducks in a row" now, you will better your chances of getting a New Yorkdispensary license when the time finally comes. 

As you wait for more updates on the New York adult-use market, MOST recommends you take the following steps:

  • Pay attention to the New York Office of Cannabis Management website.
  • Study the application process in other adult-use markets. You can rest assured that New York will not "reinvent the wheel" for cannabis dispensary applications. As such, anticipate the point system and everything that comes with it.
  • Research Social and Economic Equity measures in the New York cannabis industry. 
  • Investigate which regions of New York are cannabis-friendly. Importantly, counties and municipalities can vote to ban cannabis dispensaries if they see fit. 
  • Study the established medical cannabis industry in New York. In doing so, you will gain a better understanding of competition and opportunity in the adult-use vertical. 

New York Dispensary Application Support

Cannabis presents a very precarious industry to do business, especially in transforming markets like New York. As such, if you are looking to open a cannabis dispensary in New York, you are best discussing your plans with a professional consulting firm like MOST. 

As a leading cannabis consulting company, MOST is constantly paying attention to industry news and developments. With up-to-date knowledge on such a volatile business, we can give the appropriate guidance in entering new markets, as seen in New York.

Contact Us today for questions about opening a cannabis dispensary.