New York Supreme Court Justice Judge Kevin Bryant recently lifted a temporary injunction that previously halted approval for any state cannabis licenses on Aug. 25. However, only 30 licensees are currently affected by the decision compared to the statewide total of more than 400 applications that are still on hold.
“As such, those licenses identified by the office of cannabis management will be deemed exempt from the injunction,” Bryant said about his decision.
Those 30 licensees were labeled “ready to open” by both the Cannabis Control Board and the city in which they will operate. According to a PIX11 news report, applicants could potentially become exempt from the injunction if they need their dispensary income to help them financially. “The Judge’s August 18 order outlined certain factors and our job as attorneys representing CAURD licenses is to ensure that our clients are protected and that they fit within an exemption so we need to work to make sure they’re in line with the judge’s order,” said Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) attorney Jorge Luis Vasquez.
In response to Byrant’s most recent decision, the Office of Cannabis Management issued a statement regarding exemptions for those provisional licensees. “While today’s ruling is a disappointment, we are committed to working with the Cannabis Control Board to find a way forward that does not derail our efforts to bring the most equitable cannabis market in the nation to life.”
The lawsuit began on Aug. 2 when a group of military veterans introduced a lawsuit against the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) and New York Cannabis Control Board, claiming that those agencies did not set up a properly working cannabis industry as stated in the state’s CAURD license, state officials prioritized “justice involved” applicants over disabled veteran applicants.
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act was originally signed in March 2021 by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and includes a list of five “social and economic equity” groups that would receive priority for a cannabis license: distressed farmers, individuals who live in areas disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs, minority-owned businesses, service-disabled veterans, and women-owned businesses.
The lawsuit includes Carmine Fiore (who served eight years in the Army and National Guard), Dominic Spaccio (who spent six years in the U.S. Air Force), William Norgard (a former Army veteran), and Steve Mejia (with six years spent in the Air Force), who are represented by attorneys Brian Thomas Burns, Selbie Lee Jason, and Patrick Joseph Smith, of Clark Smith Villazor.
According to plaintiff Fiore, he and other veterans helped get cannabis legalized, but now are being denied an opportunity to take part in the state’s legal industry and “cast aside for a separate agenda,” Fiore told CBS News.
“From the beginning, our fight has always been for equal access to this new and growing industry,” a joint statement from all four veterans said. “We look forward to working with the state and the court to open the program to all eligible applicants.”
As a result, Judge Bryant issued an injunction on Aug. 7 that prevented the New York Office of Cannabis Management from approving licenses for any new cannabis stores temporarily. In a hearing on Aug. 18, Bryant extended the injunction and said that the CAURD program is in “legal jeopardy,” and predicted that the OCM’s decision not to award licenses to the veteran defendants caused “irreparable harm.”
Clark Smith Villazor released a statement on LinkedIn in response to Bryant’s decision last week. “In a ruling today in favor of Clark Smith Villazor LLP’s four service-disabled veteran clients seeking to enter New York’s nascent retail marijuana industry, a New York State Supreme Court Justice issued a preliminary injunction that largely halts the processing of allegedly unconstitutional conditional adult-use retail dispensary (CAURD) licenses in the cannabis industry,” the firm wrote about the ruling on Aug. 18. “In a 16-page decision, Justice Kevin Bryant found that CSV’s clients ‘presented persuasive and compelling authority’ that the state regulators ‘failed to follow the clear language of the applicable legislation’ by failing to open the retail-dispensary application period to everyone at the same time, including to priority groups like service-disabled veterans.”
Currently, only 23 licensed cannabis stores are open for business in New York, and the decision has halted all progress and is negatively impacting cannabis owners across the state.
Last week, CEO of CONBUD, Coss Marte told High Times how prior to cannabis legalization in New York, 94% of cannabis-related arrests included Black and Latino residents. “We’ve paid our dues. We’ve done the time, and if there’s one thing we hope for the world and the court to know, it’s that like cannabis, we’re here for good and we are here to stay,” Marte said. “We had the opportunity to be heard and to fight on behalf of all of our fellow CAURD licensees who will experience irreparable harm if they’re barred from operating their businesses, and we are confident and hopeful that the court wants a swift resolution that honors the original promises made to justice-impacted license holders.”
The Cannabis Control Board is set to hold a meeting on Sept. 12 to vote on state licensing regulations. “I want this to be as easy as possible, I don’t want to waste unnecessary time,” Bryant said, who also scheduled the next hearing of the case for Sept. 15.
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