NATIONAL NEWS

New York judge blocks retail marijuana licensing, a major blow to state’s fledgling program

Aug 18, 2023, 3:10 PM

FILE - Marijuana plants are seen at a secured growing facility in Washington county, N.Y., May 12, ...

FILE - Marijuana plants are seen at a secured growing facility in Washington county, N.Y., May 12, 2023. A New York judge blocked the state's retail marijuana licensing program, Friday, Aug. 18, 2023, dealing a devastating blow to the fledgling marketplace after a group of veterans sued over rules that allowed people with drug convictions to open the first dispensaries. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A New York judge blocked the state’s retail marijuana licensing program on Friday, dealing a devastating blow to the fledgling marketplace after a group of veterans sued over rules that allowed people with drug convictions to open the first dispensaries.

New York Supreme Court Justice Kevin Bryant blocked the state from processing or issuing marijuana dispensary licenses with an injunction that faulted regulators for creating a program that is at odds with the state law that legalized the drug.

The order represents a severe setback for the state’s legal marijuana industry, which has been defined by a slow licensing rollout, a glut of excess marijuana crops and legal challenges that have allowed an illicit market to boom.

The veterans’ lawsuit argues that state marijuana regulators improperly limited the initial round of licenses to people with prior marijuana convictions, rather than a wider group of so-called social equity applicants included in the original law. The judge last week temporarily blocked the state’s program as legal arguments in the case played out, with Friday’s order extending the shut down.

In a statement, a representative for the veterans said state regulators’ failure to follow the law have kept licenses out of the hands of veterans and other minority groups who were supposed to be prioritized.

“From the beginning, our fight has always been for equal access to this new and growing industry,” the statement said, adding “We look forward to working with the State and the Court to open the program to all eligible applicants.”

Lawyers for the state have warned the judge that any halting of the licensing program would financially harm those who have already begun spending money to establish businesses under provisional licenses. The state Office of Cannabis Management did not immediately have a comment on the order Friday.

Bryant, in his order, wrote that potential financial woes are the fault of state regulators who were undeniably aware of legal problems with the licensing rules.

Still, the judge did grant an exemption to his order for licensees who met all the state’s requirements before Aug. 7 and is allowing applicants who are seeking an exemption to present their case before the court on a case-by-case basis. He has also ordered for state regulators to convene and begin finalizing marijuana licensing rules.

The order follows a vote in May in which state regulators eventually settled a federal lawsuit that blocked them from issuing licenses in the Finger Lakes region after a Michigan company alleged that New York’s licensing system unconstitutionally favors New Yorkers over out-of-state residents.

The legal challenges and slow rollout of licenses have led to complaints from farmers who grow marijuana that there aren’t enough legal sellers to handle their crops. Regulators last month approved the sale of marijuana at festivals in an attempt to address those complaints.

At the same time, authorities have been working to shut down illegal marijuana shops that have cropped up all over the state, particularly in New York City, as unlicensed sellers fill the legal vacuum.

National News

Associated Press

New York county reaches $1.75 million settlement with family of man fatally shot by police in 2011

SELDEN, N.Y. (AP) — A New York county has reached a $1.75 million settlement with the family of a man shot and killed by police in his home in 2011. Suffolk County, on Long Island, has agreed to pay the settlement to the family of Kevin Callahan, County Legislator Rob Trotta, who chairs the Ways […]

2 minutes ago

Associated Press

North Carolina lawmakers appeal judge’s decision blocking abortion-pill restrictions

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Republican legislative leaders are appealing portions of a federal judge’s order this month that blocked several state laws that restrict how abortion pills can be dispensed, including the requirement that only physicians can provide the drugs to patients. Lawyers for Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Texas medical panel issues new guidelines for doctors but no specific exceptions for abortion ban

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas medical panel on Friday approved guidance for doctors working under one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion bans but refused to list specific exceptions to the law, which doctors have complained is dangerously unclear. The decision by the Texas Medical Board came less than a month after the state […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Inmate asks court to block second nitrogen execution in Alabama

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Lawyers for an Alabama inmate on Friday asked a judge to block the nation’s second scheduled execution using nitrogen gas, arguing the first was a “horrific scene” that violates the ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Alan Eugene Miller, who survived a 2022 lethal injection attempt, is scheduled to be executed […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Shooting at grocery store in south Arkansas kills 2 and wounds 8 others, police say

FORDYCE, Ark. (AP) — Two people were killed and eight wounded in a shooting that occurred Friday at a grocery store in south Arkansas, police said. Arkansas State Police said the shooting occurred at the Mad Butcher grocery store in Fordyce and that the suspected shooter was critically injured after being shot by police. A […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Judge dismisses charges in Nevada fake electors case over venue question, attorney general to appeal

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada state court judge dismissed a criminal indictment Friday against six Republicans accused of submitting certificates to Congress falsely declaring Donald Trump the winner of the state’s 2020 presidential election, potentially killing the case with a ruling that state prosecutors chose the wrong venue to file the case. Nevada Attorney […]

2 hours ago

New York judge blocks retail marijuana licensing, a major blow to state’s fledgling program