ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On Monday, the New York State Cannabis Control Board gave the OK to New York’s first wave of retail dispensary licenses. 36 conditional adult use retail licenses were approved, many of them going to business owners with prior marijuana-related convictions.

Of the first wave of licenses, 28 will go to business owners who either have a prior cannabis-related conviction or a family member who does. The remaining eight were approved for nonprofit organizations. The licenses were approved at a Monday meeting of the Office of Cannabis Management, and were approved from among over 900 applicants.

“Today is a monumental day for New York’s nascent cannabis industry, said Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright. “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.”

The state did not release a full list of licensees on Monday, but said that at least one license was granted to a business owner in each region of New York. Those licenses will mark the first businesses to sell New York-grown cannabis. In all, the state is set to approve a total of 175 licenses, with limits of 150 to individuals and 25 to nonprofits.

Eligibility is determined based on where those who have applied have a cannabis-related conviction, and have owned a profitable business. For nonprofits, the evaluation process required a history of service to currently or formerly incarcerated individuals. The process also acknowledged the statistic that black New York residents have been found to be 15 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis-related convictions than white New Yorkers over the last 15 years. The majority of Monday’s recipients are people of color.

“This is just the start,” said Wright. “We will continue to work to build an industry that is open to anyone who wants to participate. Many thanks to Governor Kathy Hochul and her unwavering support as we all work to make sure New York has the most equitable and inclusive cannabis industry in the nation.”          

On Monday, the board also voted to advance a regulation package for adult-use cannabis to the public comment stage. The package includes the state’s application and renewal process for sale licenses; the role of municipalities in regulating cannabis sale; environmental and sustainability stanards; and general operating requirements for businesses. Additionally, the board is moving to final public comment on a package of regulations on cannabis packaging, labeling and marketing.