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Judge rejects motion to allow for the distribution of cannabis licenses in Western New York

A lawsuit filed in November claims New York’s rollout of Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries licenses is unconstitutional.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Frustration continues for Western New Yorkers in the cannabis industry who are going to have to continue to wait until the first adult-retail cannabis dispensary is opened in the region after a judge dismissed a motion to allow the distribution of these licenses in the area, leaving all in the Western New York industry in limbo.

“It's disappointing, simply because it's another delay in this process of trying to get the distribution,” cannabis cultivator Tom Szulist said.

Szulist — like dozens of other cultivators around the state — have been unable to move their product to distributors due to a pending lawsuit filed by a Michigan man last November.

The lawsuit claimed New York’s rollout of Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries licenses is unconstitutional, after he was rejected from the program, claiming that it violates the nation’s Dormant Commerce Clause, which prohibits states from favoring their own residents over out-of-state residents.

The program aims to offer initial dispensary licenses to entrepreneurs with marijuana convictions.

"It's pretty ironic that courts are even applying the Dormant Commerce Clause, which is intended to actually protect and foster and encourage interstate commerce,” said Fatima Afia, a cannabis lawyer with Rudick Law Group. “It's interesting that they're applying that legal principle to a commodity that is technically not permitted to enter interstate commerce.”

Despite that, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, blocking all five regions he ranked in his application — Western New York, the Finger Lakes, Central New York, the mid-Hudson region and Brooklyn — from issuing CAURD licenses.

Tuesday, the judge rejecting a motion by the state’s Office of Cannabis Management to amend the initial decision and allow Western New York and three of the other regions to begin distributing licenses.

“It's over 60 licenses that are being held up,” Afia said. “And so all the cultivators who have been working really hard all year long are gonna have a little bit more trouble getting their product on shelves.”

The ruling leaves Szulist and the other Western New York growers with the only options of sending their product down state to the only two open dispensaries or continuing to take the risk and hold on financially until Western New York catches up.

“I look at it that it's like a speed bump,” Szulist said. “It's not like we're not moving. It's just, I thought we'd have a lot more speed at this point.”

The next key date for cannabis growers comes on March 23 when the Office of Cannabis Management will set forth all of their arguments on an appeal.

2 On Your Side reached out to OCM, but they said they would not comment on pending litigation.

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