In recent years, various states have legalized marijuana, with New York being a notable addition. The state’s significant move came when former Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) on March 31, 2021. This act positioned New York as the 16th state to legalize adult-use marijuana, marking the culmination of years of efforts. As of 2024, New York has made strides in developing what is projected to be a $4.2 billion industry, potentially one of the largest marijuana markets in the United States.

The primary objectives of the MRTA include:

  • Establishing the Office of Cannabis Management to oversee the comprehensive regulation of medical, adult-use, and cannabinoid hemp.
  • Creating a regulated and taxed cannabis economy within the state.
  • Initiating various social and economic justice programs related to the cannabis industry.

To start a cannabis business in New York, interested parties must comply with the regulations set by the new law and obtain the necessary license. This opens up numerous business opportunities for residents keen on participating in this expanding industry.

New York Medical Marijuana Program

In July 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo enacted the Compassionate Care Act, initiating a detailed and secure medical marijuana program in New York. This legislation authorized medical marijuana use for treating specific conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

From 2016 to 2018, the program expanded to include chronic pain, PTSD, and opiate addiction therapy. The Department of Health’s website lists all eligible conditions.

New York Medical Cannabis Business Opportunities

The Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) aims to further develop the Medical Marijuana Program. Currently, existing regulations and operations are maintained while the Office of Cannabis Regulation formulates necessary regulatory structures. Information about current medical marijuana program applications is available on their website.

The MRTA mandates the Cannabis Control Board to register new organizations, which may operate up to eight dispensaries, prioritizing the first two in underserved areas. New registrations are evaluated with an emphasis on diversity in race, ethnicity, and gender.

Additionally, the MRTA introduces a cannabis research license, enabling the production, processing, purchase, or possession of cannabis for research. This cannabis can only be sold to other research licensees.

The timeline for cannabis research license applications is pending. Prospective applicants must provide a detailed research plan and specify the quantity of cannabis required. Applications are assessed based on project quality, design, impact, the applicant’s capability to conduct the research, and whether the cannabis amount aligns with the project’s scale and goals.

For up-to-date information on cannabis business opportunities, including licensing and application procedures, visit the Office of Cannabis Regulation’s website.

Recreational Marijuana Legalization

Former Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) into law on March 31, 2021, legalizing recreational cannabis for adults aged 21 and older in New York. This groundbreaking legislation established a licensing system for various cannabis businesses, including growers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and cooperatives.

The MRTA led to the creation of the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), governed by the Cannabis Control Board. This body is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the law, regulating the cannabis market, issuing licenses, and developing comprehensive regulations for business participation in the burgeoning industry. Beyond regulating the adult-use cannabis market, the OCM also oversees the state’s medical marijuana and hemp programs.

Following Andrew Cuomo’s resignation on August 10, 2021, Kathy Hochul became New York’s first female governor. Her ascension has been positive for the state’s adult-use cannabis industry. Governor Hochul has expressed her commitment to prioritizing the launch of the state’s marijuana sales program during her tenure.

As of 2024, New York’s recreational marijuana market has seen significant advancements. The OCM has successfully issued numerous licenses across various categories, enabling a diverse and thriving cannabis industry. Retail dispensaries have opened in multiple locations, offering a range of products to consumers. The regulatory framework established by the OCM ensures safe and responsible access to cannabis, with strict quality control and compliance standards.

Governor Hochul’s administration continues to focus on enhancing the industry, with particular attention to social equity programs. These initiatives aim to provide opportunities for communities disproportionately affected by previous marijuana laws. The state’s revenue from cannabis sales is being strategically reinvested in health, education, and community development programs.

Furthermore, the integration of the recreational market with the existing medical marijuana and hemp programs has created a comprehensive cannabis ecosystem in New York. This integration benefits consumers and businesses alike, offering a model for other states considering legalization.

The OCM’s commitment to adapting regulations in response to industry trends and consumer needs has positioned New York as a leading state in the responsible management of a legal cannabis market.

Important Local and Municipality Details For Cannabis Businesses

For individuals planning to establish a cannabis business or dispensary, understanding local and municipal regulations is essential. These regulations can vary significantly across different regions and can have a profound impact on the feasibility and operations of cannabis-related businesses.

Understanding Local Regulations

Each state in the U.S. has its own set of laws regarding the operation of cannabis businesses. However, it’s not just state laws that prospective cannabis business owners need to be aware of. Local jurisdictions, such as counties, towns, and cities, often have the authority to set their own rules regarding the operation of these businesses. This means that even if cannabis businesses are legal at the state level, they may not be permitted in certain local jurisdictions.

The New York Context

In New York, for example, the situation is particularly nuanced. Towns, cities, and villages within the state have the option to opt out of allowing the sale and on-site consumption of recreational marijuana at retail dispensaries. By 2024, several towns and cities might have already made their decisions regarding this matter. For instance, as of previous years, areas like Eastchester, Gerry, Somers, Chautauqua, and Cassadaga had opted out. The deadline for these localities to make their decision was initially set at December 31, and once this deadline passed, municipalities that opted out could no longer reverse their decision. However, they retained the option to opt back in at a later date.

Checking Local Compliance

Before proceeding with setting up a cannabis business, it’s crucial to check the current status of cannabis regulations in the intended location. Local government websites often provide up-to-date information on their stance towards cannabis businesses. In some cases, public hearings or community meetings are held to discuss potential changes in policy, providing an opportunity for business owners to stay informed and even participate in the decision-making process.

Importance of Compliance

Compliance with local regulations is not just a matter of legality; it can also affect various aspects of business operations. This includes zoning laws, which determine where a cannabis business can physically operate, as well as local taxes and business license requirements. Non-compliance can lead to legal challenges, fines, or the revocation of business licenses, thus underscoring the importance of thorough research and adherence to local laws.

Types of New York Recreational Cannabis Business Licenses

The information provided below outlines the eleven types of adult-use cannabis licenses available, as well as the ownership restrictions imposed by the MRTA.

Adult-use Cultivator

This license permits the acquisition, possession, cultivation, and distribution of cannabis. Holders can sell cannabis to licensed processors but are restricted to owning just one cultivator license and are barred from holding a cannabis retail license.

Adult-use Nursery

A nursery license enables the legal production, sale, and distribution of clones, immature plants, seeds, and related agricultural products. These are used for cannabis cultivation by licensed cultivators, cooperatives, microbusinesses, or registered organizations. An adult-use cultivator can also hold one nursery license.

Adult-use Processor

Holders of a processor license are authorized to acquire, possess, process, and sell cannabis from licensed cultivators to distributors. Ownership is limited to one processor license per individual. Processors can also obtain a distributor license solely for distributing their own products but are prohibited from owning a cannabis retail license.

Adult-use Distributor

This license allows for the acquisition, possession, distribution, and sale of cannabis from licensed processors, cooperatives, microbusinesses, or registered organizations to licensed retail dispensaries and on-site consumption sites. A single distributor license is allowed per person, with no allowance for owning a cannabis retail license.

Adult-use Cooperative

A cooperative license permits the acquisition, possession, cultivation, processing, and sale of cannabis from licensed premises to licensed distributors and retail dispensaries. Each person is limited to one cooperative license, and cooperatives cannot own a cannabis retail license.

Adult-use Microbusiness

Microbusiness license holders can cultivate, process, distribute, deliver, and sell cannabis on a small scale. An individual is limited to one microbusiness license and cannot own any other type of adult-use cannabis license.

Adult-use Retail Dispensary

This license allows for the acquisition, possession, sale, and delivery of cannabis from a retail dispensary. A maximum of three retail licenses is allowed per person. Retail licensees cannot own licenses in cultivation, processing, or distribution.

Adult-use On-site Consumption

Holders of this license can acquire, possess, and sell cannabis for consumption on-site. Each person can hold up to three on-site consumption licenses but cannot own licenses in cultivation, processing, or distribution.

Adult-use Delivery

A delivery license authorizes the delivery of cannabis and related products to consumers. An individual is limited to one delivery license and is prohibited from owning any other type of adult-use license.

Registered Organization Adult-use Cultivator Processor Distributor Retail Dispensary

This license permits a registered organization to operate with the same privileges as adult-use cultivator, processor, distributor, and retail dispensary licensees. However, a registered organization cannot own or hold any other type of adult-use license.

Registered Organization Adult-use Cultivator Processor Distributor

This license allows a registered organization to function as an adult-use cultivator, processor, and distributor. A registered organization is restricted from holding any other adult-use license types.

How many New York cannabis licenses will be available?

As of 2024, the specific number of licenses for recreational marijuana businesses in New York has been determined. Importantly, 50% of these licenses are reserved for social and economic equity applicants, including individuals from cannabis-prohibition-impacted communities, minority- and women-owned businesses, disabled veterans, and distressed farmers. Financial support through grants, loans, and incubator programs is provided to eligible individuals to help establish their businesses.

New York Cannabis Business License Cost

The fees for New York cannabis business license applications have been established by the Office of Cannabis Management. The application fee is non-refundable, and a license fee, which varies based on license type, product volume, and other factors, is charged every two years.

When did recreational sales begin in New York?

The commencement of recreational cannabis sales in New York began in 2022, following the finalization of rules and the establishment of a licensing application process by the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). Various license types are now open for application.

As the New York cannabis industry continues to evolve, we provide regular updates and professional insights. To receive the latest information and insights on cannabis business opportunities in New York and other states, subscribe to our newsletter.

Navigating the cannabis business landscape in New York and beyond can be complex. Moriconi Flowers is at the forefront, offering expert legal advice and industry insights to help you succeed. Whether you’re applying for a license, seeking regulatory compliance, or exploring business expansion, our team is equipped to guide you through every step. Don’t miss out on crucial updates and strategic advice. Join our community of informed professionals today.

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Building on almost 20 years in litigation, Justin’s practice specializes in regulated cannabis organizations consulting, formation, permitting, investment, expansion, and related ancillary legal services. Focusing on Cannabis law since 2016, Moriconi Flowers has successfully permitted applicants multi-state and on the Federal level. He is also co-owner of the first cannabis dispensary in Pennsylvania. Justin continues to return results in the face of adversity and against large firms for clients in all aspects of business and litigation. Justin and co-founder of Moriconi Flowers, Ted Flowers, regularly lecture on various topics on a local and national level in the commercial cannabis, security, insurance, and litigation space.



A 1997 graduate of Temple Law School, Ted’s experience in liquor licensing matters, representing hotels, bars, restaurants, distillers, and distributors through all stages of the licensing and regulatory process, made a natural transition to cannabis law practice in 2016. Focusing on Cannabis law since 2016, Moriconi Flowers has successfully permitted applicants multi-state and on the Federal level. He is also co-owner of the first cannabis dispensary in Pennsylvania. Ted and co-founder of Moriconi Flowers, Justin Moriconi, regularly lecture on various topics on a local and national level in the commercial cannabis, security, insurance, and litigation space.

How To Get Your Neew York Cannabis Business License