New York state regulators approved about three dozen licenses to operate the state's first retail dispensaries on Monday, a significant step towards the official launch of the legal market for recreational cannabis sales, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The permits approved on Monday will allow approved applicants to eventually open shop for the legal sale of marijuana in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island. Brooklyn, the state's most populous county, has been excluded from this round of applications due to ongoing litigation.
Earlier this month, a federal judge in Albany barred the state's Office of Cannabis Management from approving applications for stores in several areas of the state, including Brooklyn, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo. Despite this legal challenge, the state Cannabis Control Board voted to award the licenses in the hopes that they can begin to allow legal sales anyway.
State officials set aside the first round of licenses for applicants that showed that they or a close family member were convicted of marijuana-related charges in New York, and nonprofits that served people with histories of incarceration. Applicants also had to have experience running a business.
"Not long ago, the idea of New York legalizing cannabis seemed unbelievable," said board chairwoman Tremaine Wright, per The New York Times. "Now, not only have we legalized, but we're also building a legal adult-use market with an equity-driven approach."