After years of stalled attempts, Governor Cuomo of New York signed the bill to legalize adult-use marijuana in April 1, 2021. Existing operators will be able to pay a one-time fee to co-locate 3 adult-use dispensaries at their prior locations and stay vertically integrated. New operators will be prohibited from vertical integration, and licensees will not be allowed more then 3 dispensaries. Although a framework for other licensees does not exist as of yet, delivery and on-site consumption lounges will be just some of the licenses up for grabs. Moreover, 50% of new adult-use licenses are planned to be awarded to social equity applicants.
When New York state legalized adult-use, the law immediately allowed those over 21 to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana. But the state can’t issue licenses for businesses, including retailers, until it staffs the agency and control board that will write the regulations. That process is currently at a standstill.
The St. Regis Mohawks are not at a standstill. The tribe adopted their own tribal ordinance legalizing adult-use earlier this summer, going further than the stat's law by setting up rules for growing and processing marijuana and licensing retail shops. Altogether, this means that state's first legal sales could take place on the St. Regis Mohawk (Akwesne) territory where-in everything from "seed-to-sale" must take on tribal territory.
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With nearly 20MM residents and one of the highest GDP per capita in the US, New York is poised to ultimately generate over $4b in annual cannabis sales. With nine of the 10 licenses being owned by the largest MSOs, New York is the land of bigs. Operators who took the cash burn to build infrastructure will be rewarded with a foothold in the market. Much like Illinois, whoever can build out cultivation will have a multi-year window of insatiable demand at industry-high prices. The market is primed, but out of state investors will likely need to wait eighteen months for the new licensing structure to be put in place.
With the recent legalization, New York is poised to be one of the biggest cannabis markets in the United States. Unfortunately, the current lack of licensing makes it difficult to discern who will be able to take home the biggest bite of the apple. What we do know is that the 10 current licensees have a leg up on the industry with the opportunity to be the only vertically integrated operators in the state.
Current operators should begin ramping up production as we anticipate adult-use sales to begin in 2022.
New licensees looking to get in on the racket will be forced to play catch-up with some of the biggest names in cannabis. No need to fret however, as the current operators will not be able to handle the new market alone. Opportunity abounds in the Empire state.
*Each vertically integrated license can open four dispensaries for a total of 40 dispensaries across the state.