New York lagging behind in legal marijuana sales

It was a mad dash in New Jersey as residents waited in long lines for the state’s very first legal marijuana products.

But now the question is, when will New York catch up?

"Well first, congratulations to New Jersey because they've done it, they've opened up for sales and I know everyone is excited on this side of the river and on that side," Tremaine Wright, Chair of New York’s Cannabis Control Board said. "We hope to be following in their footsteps very soon."

Wright is the Chair of New York’s Cannabis Control Board, which is in charge of regulating what will be the largest marijuana industry in the country.

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So far, Wright says the state has issued 52 cultivation licenses to existing hemp farmers and will continue to accept applications until June 30.

Those with past marijuana convictions and at least 2 years of experience running a business, will get the first shot at applying to run a dispensary.

Once those regulations are approved, Wright says she believes they will issue anywhere from 100 to 200 licenses this fall so doors can open before the end of the year.

"Once those regulations are finalized, we'll begin that process and those operators should have their doors open with our farmers’ products on their shelves at the end of this year," Wright said.

Mayor Eric Adams announced that he wants to dedicate $4.8 million to help weed entrepreneurs learn about the industry, assist them in applying for licenses and aid them in finding financing.

This will have to be approved in the city’s budget, but Adams says he wants to focus on communities hardest hit by the war on drugs.

"That is what these dollars are going to go to," Mayor Adams said. "This is going to help people build out and understand the infrastructure going into the cannabis business."

In the meantime though, the city’s gray market when it comes to selling weed is booming.

The Cannabis Control Board sent out letters to illegal operators telling them to cease and desist.

But Wright says now, the state will be starting to issue fines and violations.

"It is illegal to be making THC sales currently and we need them to fold in to this regulated market, because our customers and consumers in New York State need to know that these are tested, trusted products," Wright explained.

Now there has been criticism that the rollout of New York’s cannabis industry has been slow moving, thanks in part to the prior administration. Former Governor Andrew Cuomo failed for months to appoint members to the State’s Cannabis Control Board, the first step the state needed to take in order to launch the recreational market.

But officials say they are really working to come up with a brand new system rather than copying and pasting what other states have done.