A mere 20 years after this article’s cover photo was taken, New York State is about to welcome its first-ever legal cannabis retail dispensaries.

In November, New York’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) announced 28 individual businesses individuals and eight nonprofits that have been selected so far for the first round of retail licenses, known as Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses, being issued in New York State. Between them, the recipients represent a range of industries in their (required) business histories, as well as nonprofits with large presences and various organizational goals, across New York.

These first, mostly turnkey retail dispensaries, or ‘recreational’ stores (a term that differentiates them from medical-only dispensaries, which already serve registered cannabis patients in NYS), will enter a marketplace where variously brazen brick-and-mortar ‘clubs’ and storefronts, semi-secretly expanded tobacconists, and Weed World trucks have already been testing the waters of a decriminalized(-ish) New York alongside ‘legacy’ unregulated cannabis operators (a.k.a. ‘dealers,’ underground delivery services, and/or justice-impacted operators, depending who you ask).

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New York State is also facing other forms of legal uncertainty going forward.

As Andrew Siff and colleagues reported this month for NBC New York, for one thing, “It’s not clear how many total licenses will ultimately be awarded statewide or in New York City, where some in Brooklyn are waiting with bated breath after a federal judge temporarily blocked the state from issuing recreational pot licenses there and in upstairs areas amid ongoing legal challenges to the selection process.”

The most visible legal challenge in play at the moment comes from Variscite NY One, a Michigan company. As Sean Teehan reported for Syracuse.com, “Variscite sued after the state found it was ineligible for CAURD because the company is 51% owned by an individual who has no significant connection to New York and who has a cannabis conviction in Michigan.”

One thing that’s clear is that at this historical moment for New York’s massive hybrid cannabis market — one that comprises billions in current unregulated and regulated sales combined — there’s a lot more up in the air right now than just the plant’s oftenremarkedupon scent.

It’s also clear that there’s an enormous amount of interest in cannabis on the ground.

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