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US Court of Appeals modifies cannabis license injunction

The ruling issued Tuesday allows conditional cannabis licenses to be issued in Western New York, the Hudson Valley, Central New York & Brooklyn.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has moved to narrow an injunction preventing justice-involved individuals in five New York regions from receiving conditional cannabis licenses.

The ruling issued Tuesday by Judges Robert Sack, Raymond Lohier, and Susan Carney alters a lower court's ruling that had barred applicants in Western New York, the Hudson Valley, Central New York, the Finger Lakes, and Brooklyn.

The modified injunction now "bars the issuance of conditional adult-use cannabis dispensary licenses only in the Finger Lakes Region" the ruling states.

The case Variscite NY One v. State of New York had been holding up the New York Office of Cannabis Management's CAURD or conditional adult-use retail dispensary program from rolling out statewide. The plaintiff, Variscite has claimed the application process approved by the Office of Cannabis Management or OCM was unconstitutional and that their application was rejected because one of their principal applicant partners was convicted of a marijuana-related crime outside of New York State.

When the injunction was put in place back in November 2022 the state was forced to only open dispensaries in areas outside the zone. Only five have been launched since December. A sixth is set to open in Queens on Thursday and will be the first women-owned location.

This plea isn't the first related to the case. Last month the New York Attorney General's Office appealed to a federal judge in New York's Northern District but their motion to dismiss or alter the injunction was denied. This latest attempt did not fail.

In response to the ruling the Office of Cannabis Management said in a tweet they are excited and will begin advancing licenses to the four newly included regions.

Western New York is set to receive 22 CAURD dispensaries as of March 3, when the state doubled the total number of locations statewide from 150 to 300.

Buffalo-based Cannabis Attorney Joseph Schaefer of Lippes Mathias Attorneys at Law says he expects the state's Cannabis Control Board to award a good chunk of Western New York's licenses at their meeting set for Monday, April 3rd. 

"I exchanged a lot of text messages, had some great phone calls yesterday. The excitement is starting to blossom once again, which is good, I think we needed some good news up here," he said about his clients' reaction to the lifted injunction. 

"We've all been working together for almost two years now. The cultivators are excited, the processors are excited," he said. "We want to get our Western New York focused products in WNY dispensaries and this is finally the opportunity to do so."

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