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Federal judge puts halt to cannabis license rollout in 5 NY regions

A federal judge is preventing New York from issuing cannabis dispensary licenses after a lawsuit claimed parts of the application process were unconstitutional.

ALBANY, N.Y. — A U.S. District Judge in the Northern District of New York has blocked the state from issuing any cannabis dispensary licenses in five regions of the state. 

Judge Gary Sharpe issued the ruling Thursday after a lawsuit was filed by Variscite NY One, Inc. 

The lawsuit claims the application process approved by the Office of Cannabis Management is unconstitutional.

In order to get a license, according to the law passed in the state, one of the principal applicants for a cannabis dispensary needs to have been convicted of a marijuana-related crime prior to 2021.

Variscite claims their application was rejected because one of their principal applicant partners was convicted of a marijuana-related crime outside of New York State. 

"In the issuing this injunction, the court determined that it was likely that they would proceed on that constitutional claim," said Brendan Little, an attorney at Lippes Mathias LLP.  "The judge enjoined the office of cannabis management from issuing any licenses in the five regions."

Brooklyn, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson and Western New York are the five regions, for now, excluded from being issued licenses by the Office of Cannabis Management. 

But this leaves a potential legal kerfuffle that still needs to be resolved. 

"The other nine are still in play," Little says. "There could be another lawsuit, that would affect the particular regions, or the New York State Office of Cannabis Management could say we're gonna pause this whole process in light of the new ruling."

2 On Your Side reached out to the Office of Cannabis Management to ask about the other regions, but a spokesperson said they couldn't comment due to pending litigation. 

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