NY approves first locations to buy recreational marijuana

New York issued its first 36 cannabis dispensary licenses for recreational marijuana on Monday.

The licenses approved by the state's Cannabis Control Board were the first of 175 the state plans to issue, with many in the first round reserved for applicants with past convictions for marijuana offenses.

Eight nonprofit groups were among the 36 granted licensees.

Some dispensaries, selected from a pool of more than 900 applicants, are expected to open by the end of the year.

"Today is a monumental day for New York’s nascent cannabis industry. With the first adult-use retail dispensary licenses in the hands of businesses and eligible nonprofits, we’ve ensured the first sales will be made at dispensaries operated by those impacted by the unjust enforcement of cannabis prohibition," said Tremaine Wright, the chair of the Cannabis Control Board.

Erica Ford's nonprofit LIFE Camp received a license.

"It feels amazing to be a Black woman, a Black-led organization, working with socially justice-involved individuals whose community has been devastated by the war on drugs," Ford told reporters.

With the first licenses now issued, it remained to be seen whether officials would step up their efforts to go after scores of unauthorized dispensaries opened in the past year by people who shrugged at licensing requirements.

Related: Illegal marijuana shop raided in Brooklyn

New York legalized the recreational use of marijuana in March 2021 but is still in the process of licensing people to sell it.

The cannabis board also advanced proposed regulations for the sale of marijuana, with a focus on public health, product quality and safety, and preventing those under 21 from buying cannabis.

"I'm thrilled that we've approved the first adult-use retail licenses as part of the Seeding Opportunity Initiative, which sets our industry off on the right foot – with equity, justice, and sustainability at the forefront," said Jen Metzger, Cannabis Control Board Member. "These entrepreneurs will be selling sun-grown cannabis cultivated with a minimal carbon footprint, and we must continue to ensure that New York's industry remains on an equitable and climate conscious path well into the future.

The cannabis board said that over the last 30 years, Black New Yorkers were 15 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than white New Yorkers. For Latinos, it was eight times more likely.

The majority of the license awardees announced today are people of color.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.