ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Slow and steady wins the race, but it appears some businesses are tired of waiting for New York to launch cannabis retail.
The Office of Cannabis Management accuses 52 businesses of labeling themselves “legal cannabis dispensaries”, although the state hasn’t yet issued any licenses. They’re also accused of “gifting” — taking donations or selling other products, then including free gifts, like cannabis flowers or infused products like gummies.
The OCM has issued 66 cease and desist letters including to “Plant It Express” with a business address listed on Broadway in Albany, but as of Friday evening, NEWS10 questions on how OCM came to its conclusions have gone unanswered.
When we took the drive down to the Broadway address, Plant It Express wasn’t on the building directory and the actual tenants were just as clueless as were.
“They’re not here. Never heard of them,” said the woman who opened the door.
“It’s unclear how these investigations took place. How they identified which businesses to target. Some of those businesses may or may not exist, some of them may have been targeted in error,” says Attorney Lauren Rudick, the co-founder of the cannabis practice at Hiller, PC.
Plant It Express hasn’t responded to NEWS10 yet, but its website bears the description “a women-founded, family-run business located in Buffalo, New York”. There is no mention of an Albany location, though OCM also issued a separate cease and desist order to the Plant It Express location in Tonawanda.
Rudick says OCM is not an enforcement agency yet, so they have no power to arrest or level criminal charges. That doesn’t make them a toothless tigers though.
“We have to really ask ourselves what is a sale? Then, what laws are actually being violated? From the perspective of an ‘illegal operator’, I’m not sure if they would take those letters so much as a threat from a criminal perspective,” she explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
“What I think we are likely to see and that the office very much has the power to do, is restrict the process for those businesses or individuals targeted by these cease and desist letters to be able to obtain a license once the adult-use market does open. If OCM is looking at two applicants, they’re much more likely to grant a license to someone who’s shown a willingness to go through the process and follow regulations,” she further says.
OCM leaders also say they won’t tolerate illicit businesses undercutting efforts to make New York’s adult-use retail market equitable.
“New York is building the most equitable cannabis industry in the nation, one that prioritizes those communities most harmed under cannabis prohibition. Stores selling unregulated cannabis products without licenses undercut those efforts,” NYS Office of Cannabis Management Chief Equity Officer Damian Fagon writes in an official announcement.
“It feels a little bit silly because we’re so close to a regulated pathway here, you know? So if somebody really wants to engage in this activity, they should just wait until there is a clear regulatory pathway,” Rudick says.