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New York Regulators Issue First 15 Licenses for Cannabis Processors

On Monday, New York’s Cannabis Control Board granted 15 adult-use marijuana processor licenses. This is a crucial step on the road to legalizing recreational cannabis sales later in the year. New York’s Cannabis Control Board issued the licenses to businesses already licensed as cannabinoid hemp processors, giving the businesses the opportunity to function as an integral facet of the state’s fledgling regulated marijuana industry.

“Processors aren’t just an important part of the cannabis supply chain, they are creators, who take a raw plant and transform it into tested, consistent, high-quality products that consumers can trust,” Tremaine Wright, chair of the Cannabis Control Board, said in a statement quoted by local media. “When we open New York’s first stores, owned and operated by New Yorkers harmed by the misguided criminalization of cannabis, the shelves will be lined with infused edibles, topical creams and concentrated oils. None of those products would be possible without these first processors launching New York’s cannabis industry.”

A mentorship program is required for all hemp processors that are given licenses to grow adult-use cannabis. This will provide opportunities to entrepreneurship and encourage sustainable practices in cannabis. It also ensures that people convicted of marijuana-related offences have an opportunity to get involved in the industry.

“New York is launching our cannabis industry the right way, and our cannabis processors are an integral part of that,” Office of Cannabis Management executive director Chris Alexander said in a statement. “These processors aren’t just expanding their own businesses, they are committed to also mentoring the next generation of cannabis processors. They’ll be teaching vital manufacturing skills to those with a passion for cannabis who will take our state’s industry to the next level. New York’s entire cannabis ecosystem will create opportunities for those who have been shut out of jobs and industry, and will bring those skills to communities across the state.”

Troy Datcher, CEO of cannabis multistate operator The Parent Company, said that awarding New York’s first cannabis processor licenses is an encouraging and essential step in the launch of the state’s adult-use market later this year. But he noted that the state’s cannabis regulations, which are currently being drafted, must reflect the realities of an entrenched illicit market.

“We appreciate that these first cannabis processors in New York will be providing mentorship to social equity applicants to enable broader participation in the state’s industry,” Datcher wrote in an email to Chronic News. “However, as we’ve learned in California, it is critical that we create a policy environment that gives these businesses a chance to succeed. In particular, we need to ensure that the state’s advertising and packaging regulations do not make it impossible for these processors to make products that meet consumer needs. Given the lack of restrictions on New York’s untested, illicit cannabis market, it is important that we take steps to help legal businesses succeed.”

New York Initiative Fosters Social Equity in Cannabis

The cannabis processors mentorship program is part of New York’s Seeding Opportunity Initiative, which Governor Kathy Hochul launched earlier this year to help facilitate social equity in the cannabis industry. This initiative provides support to equity applicants as well as investment opportunities for communities that are most affected by cannabis prohibition’s disproportionate enforcement.

“New York State is making history, launching a first-of-its-kind approach to the cannabis industry that takes a major step forward in righting the wrongs of the past,” Hochul said when the initiative was launched in March. “The regulations advanced by the Cannabis Control Board today will prioritize local farmers and entrepreneurs, creating jobs and opportunity for communities that have been left out and left behind. I’m proud New York will be a national model for the safe, equitable and inclusive industry we are now building.”

Monday’s approval by the Cannabis Control Board brought the number of cannabis growers up to 242 with 19 more conditional adult use licenses. Ryan Smith, CEO and co-founder of cannabis wholesale platform LeafLink, said that New York’s cannabis regulation is shaping up to be a model for the nation.

 “New York State is taking another encouraging step towards establishing an equitable cannabis ecosystem to right the wrongs of the War on Drugs,” Smith wrote in an email. “Based on our experience operating in over 25 states and territories, early supply constraints continue to be an issue when a market launches. We applaud the state’s Cannabis Control Board for prioritizing equity, transparency, efficiency, and consumer choice, and look forward to seeing New York’s adult-use market come online.”