ALBANY, N.Y. — New York could soon start to get more recreational marijuana dispensaries after a judge on Friday approved legal settlements to end lawsuits that halted the state's legal cannabis licensing program.
The settlements lift a court order that has blocked the state from processing or issuing retail marijuana licenses since August. State officials said the agreement will allow more than 400 potential retailers to move forward with pending applications to open storefronts.
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"With this settlement behind us, hundreds of new licenses can now move forward, new stores will open, and consumers can legally buy safer, legal, tested cannabis products from New York-based entrepreneurs and small businesses," Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement.
The state's legal market has been in shambles since sales began about a year ago. Bureaucratic problems and lawsuits have allowed only about two dozen legal dispensaries to open, as farmers sit on a glut of crops and black market shops fill the void.
Last summer, State Supreme Court Justice Kevin Bryant blocked the state from processing or issuing new permits after two lawsuits — one filed by a group of four military veterans and the other by a coalition that included large medical marijuana companies — challenged state rules that promised many of the first retail licenses to people with past drug convictions.
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State cannabis regulators this week announced settlements in the cases, with Bryant formally approving the deals Friday.
The agreements grant provisional dispensary licenses to the military veterans and outlines a process where the state will work with the medical marijuana companies on their applications to ensure they can sell recreational cannabis at their stores at the end of the month.
A representative for the group of veterans did not immediately comment Friday. An attorney for the coalition of medical marijuana companies did not return an emailed request for comment.
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