A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked New York state cannabis regulators from issuing retail licenses amid a lawsuit by a company that had been denied approval to operate in the state.
U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe issued the injunction amid a legal challenge brought by the owner of Variscite. The company is challenging the provisions in the law that require that licenses for retail cannabis dispensaries be awarded to people who have affected by drug laws in New York state.
Variscite's primary owner was previously convicted of a marijuana-related offense in Michigan. The regions of New York affected by the injunction are areas in which Variscite had sought a license to operate.
The regions impacted by the 29-page injunction are the Finger Lakes, Central New York, western New York, the Mid Hudson and Brooklyn.
Blocking the awarding of licenses comes as the state Office of Cannabis Management had planned to issue the initial round of licenses in New York by the end of the year following the first harvest of marijuana plants.
New York officials approved the retail cannabis program in 2021, with an eye toward ensuring the initial licenses are guaranteed for "justice involved" people who have been impacted stricter drug laws.
Cannabis regulators subsequently approved provisions to carry out the measure, including the requirement that the initial round of operating licenses be awarded to New Yorkers.
“We don’t comment on pending litigation. The Office of Cannabis Management is committed to the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act’s goals of including those impacted by the state's enforcement of cannabis prohibition in the market that we are building and we are additionally committed to getting New York's cannabis supply chain fully operational," said Office of Cannabis Management spokesman Freeman Klopott. "The Cannabis Control Board will soon have before it applications for the Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary license which will start closing that supply chain.”
A previous version of this story incorrectly reported where the company is based.