North Country residents continue wait for more cannabis retailers

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 4:44 PM EST
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - New York is approving licenses allowing legal weed shops to open, but so far only one of those license holders is in the North Country.

More than a year after New York legalized adult recreational use of marijuana, the state is approving licenses that will allow retail cannabis shops to open for business. “So far, New York state has issued 36 licenses in this initial batch,” said Aaron Ghitelman with the N.Y. Office of Cannabis Management.

The state had 900 applicants for this round of the Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary Program. The state intends to award 175 of those licenses, with 150 going to individuals and 25 to nonprofits. But not just anyone can get one. “New York is opening our cannabis industry in a different way than a lot of other states have done. We’re opening it with individuals harmed by the over-criminalization and prohibition of cannabis for the last century. So, we’ve been issuing licenses to individuals with prior cannabis convictions, their family members who’ve operated small businesses successfully in the past,” Ghitelman said.

Julie Merritt is the co-owner of the Koffee Kat in Plattsburgh, a café and artists’ space that currently serves CBD products and holds cannabis events. She says they’re actively trying to get a license but they just don’t meet the current criteria. “We got our cannabidiol hemp license, so now you can come any day and purchase CBD-infused strength. You can also buy CBD here. I can’t wait until we can actually sell THC-infused items,” she said.

Merritt says she believes that this might be the case for other local stores as well and that the process has been challenging and confusing. “I think it’s really difficult. I think it’s just hard right now with all regulations as far as how it’s forever changing. I do think it’s going to come though,” she said. But despite the hardships, she says they remain committed. “It’s kind of right that people who have been convicted and discriminated against because of cannabis get the right to get their license first. Be patient with the businesses that are trying to be a part of the movement.”

The one approved cannabis license in the region was obtained by Brent L. Rogers for a business that is not yet operational. State officials say those without past marijuana convictions can expect to be able to apply as soon as next summer.