Ohio has legalized recreational cannabis. Click HERE to learn more about cannabis business opportunities in Ohio.

How To Open A Dispensary In New York (2024 Guide)

Key Takeaways

  • Medical Marijuana in New York: Legal since 2014, New York’s medical marijuana program allows patients with qualifying conditions to access cannabis for therapeutic use.
  • Recreational Marijuana in New York: Became legal in March 2021, signaling a major shift in the state’s approach to cannabis, with sales and regulation frameworks developing thereafter.
  • Not Actively Accepting Licenses: The state is currently not accepting applications for retail cannabis licenses.
  • License Application and Costs: A conditional adult-use retail license is $2,000; general licenses include a $1,000 application fee, $7,000 license fee, and $3,000 for limited consumption facilities.
  • Market Opportunity: Anticipated to grow to $2.7 billion by 2027, ranking NY among the top five U.S. markets.
  • Regulations and Local Laws: Following the opt-out deadline, a significant number of New York’s municipalities have chosen not to participate in dispensary and consumption site operations, influencing the distribution of the market.

Overview 

Are you wondering how to open a dispensary in New York? This page will keep you up to date on the latest news and information relevant to opening a cannabis business in New York. This includes helpful insights on what is to come next.

On March 31, 2021, former Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Marihuana Regulation & Taxation Act, making New York the 15th state to legalize recreational cannabis. What this implies is that a huge door has opened for the cannabis industry. The first recreational dispensary in New York’s legal cannabis market opened in December 2022, ahead of schedule compared to the summer 2023 launch date.

According to the state governor’s office, the approach involves a comprehensive regulatory process involving:

  • Creating an office of “Cannabis Management” specialized in regulation for medical, adult, and hemp programs
  • Social and economic equity licensing opportunities
  • Egalitarian adult-use market structure and help facilitate access to capital
  • Technical assistance and incubation for equity entrepreneurs
  • Intent to correct past harms to communities disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition

On March 11, 2022, Gov. Hochul announced that the first licenses to establish the newly authorized marijuana retail stores in the state is reserved for those with past marijuana-related crimes. Social equity candidates were given the state’s first 100 to 200 retail marijuana licenses.

On November 21, 2022, New York authorities approved the state’s first retail marijuana licenses. The Cannabis Control Board has issued licenses to 29 dispensaries operated by justice-involved individuals and 8 dispensaries run by nonprofit organizations. In addition, the CCB provided its approval to new market regulations. The new regulations encompass a range of licensing categories, including dispensary, microbusinesses, cultivation,  processing, nursery, distribution, and cannabis co-ops.

On December 15, 2022, New York introduced a verification tool for licensed retail dispensaries that displays the label, indicating adherence to state guidelines. Additionally, a uniform emblem on each product sold will show that it conforms to the state’s criteria, giving customers peace of mind about the safety and supervision of their purchase.

December 29, 2022 marked the beginning of the first legalized sales of marijuana to adults in the state of New York. The first sale occurred at Housing Works Cannabis Co, operated by Housing Works, the nation’s biggest minority-controlled and community-based HIV/AIDS assistance organization. On January 24, 2023, the second licensed adult-use cannabis retailer and the first to be owned by an entrepreneur who was previously criminalized by cannabis prohibition opened.

On January 25, 2023, New York state regulators awarded 30 more licenses for recreational marijuana stores. There were challenges to the recreational cannabis program rolling out in parts of the state. For example, the program was temporarily halted on November 10, 2022, due to a lawsuit challenging the selection procedures brought by a Michigan firm. The ruling affected 63 out of 150 licenses for businesses and individuals in five areas. On March 28, 2023, the injunction was lifted for Western New York, Central New York, Mid-Hudson, and Brooklyn, allowing the state to issue licenses for recreational cannabis dispensaries. On May 30, 2023, a settlement was finally reached allowing marijuana dispensary ownership in the Rochester-Finger Lakes region.

On June 1, 2023, Senate Bill S7354, sponsored by State Senator Michelle Hinchey was enacted, granting an extension to licenses for cannabis cultivators and processors. It aims to tackle the delays in issuing permanent licenses by prolonging the validity of temporary licenses until June 30, 2024. In addition, the bill includes a special program for conditional license holders. They can participate in a mentorship program focused on social equity. This program provides training in cannabis cultivation and processing to promote fairness and inclusivity for social and economic equity partners.

On September 12, 2023, the Cannabis Control Board approved new regulations and licensing guidelines. Starting October 4, 2023, the public can apply for adult-use licenses through the New York Business Express (NYBE) platform. The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) expects to issue around 1,500 new licenses. The state’s OCM offered licenses for cultivators, processors, distributors, microbusinesses, and retail dispensaries. Additionally, existing adult-use conditional cultivators (AUCCs) and adult-use conditional processors (AUCPs) in “good standing” were able to apply to transition to permanent licenses. The deadline for applications was changed from December 4th to December 18th, providing prospective business owners with two additional weeks to apply. This extension also applies to expedited applications for dispensaries and micro businesses that have secured locations, pushing the deadline from November 3rd to November 17th. Additionally, the CCB approved new rules, reducing the burden of proof required to identify illegal cannabis sales.

On December 1, 2023, the New York State Supreme Court removed the preliminary injunction that had been in place since August 7th, which had barred the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) from processing or examining Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses. This decision allows the numerous provisional CAURD license holders affected by the injunction to proceed with their intentions to establish adult-use cannabis dispensaries, provided they adhere to the laws and regulations of New York.

On December 23, 2023, New York Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed a bill that would have allowedlicensed marijuana growers to sell to tribal retailers. This decision impacts farmers who are struggling with surplus cannabis and no market to sell it, following the bill’s initial approval in June. The “Cannabis Crop Rescue Act” was meant to ease market bottlenecks due to regulatory delays and lawsuits.

On March 21st, 2024, the New York State Cannabis Control Board decided to waive the licensing fees for Adult Use Conditional Cultivators for two years, affecting fees that typically range from $4,500 to $40,000 based on license tier and canopy size. This move, announced by Governor Hochul, aims to support family farms and strengthen the cannabis industry in the state. The waiver is for those transitioning to non-conditional licenses, including cultivation and microbusiness licenses. Additionally, the board has issued 114 new licenses, with 45 designated for retail dispensaries and 31 for microbusinesses, bringing the total to 88 licensed dispensaries in New York as the state nears its third year of legal marijuana.

New York’s Path To Recreational Legalization

In recent years, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Democratic legislators sought to legalize marijuana, but those attempts failed. In 2019, for example, legalization crumbled because of differences over how to govern the industry and manage revenues. Former Gov. Cuomo promised in 2020 and 2021 to pass the legislation. After years of unsuccessful attempts and stalled efforts, the state of New York finally legalized recreational marijuana in March 2021.

On August 10, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was replaced by Governor Kathy Hochul due to a harassment scandal.

What does the appointment of Kathy Hochul as Governor mean for New York’s coming recreational cannabis?

New York’s legalized marijuana program was reportedly delayed because Cuomo has stalled nominating regulators. No marijuana sales can transpire in the state unless there are regulators to set the rules and make the decisions. According to lawmakers, it will take a year or more for cannabis sales to begin in New York under Cuomo’s leadership.

Lt. Gov. Hochul has pledged that getting the state’s marijuana sales program off the ground will be a top priority. On September 22, 2021, Gov. Hochul named Reuben McDaniel, III, and Jessica Garcia as her final two appointees to regulate the state’s adult-use marijuana market, completing the New York marijuana regulatory board.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said on January 5, 2022, during her State of the State speech, that the state would create a $200 million fund to assist social equity applicants pursuing adult-use cannabis company licenses. New York is working to make the state’s cannabis market the most diverse and inclusive in the nation, and this fund will provide startup finance to social equity applicants as part of its efforts to do so.

We anticipate that the appointment of Lt. Governor Hochul to Governor could positively impact the state’s adult-use cannabis early rollout and the speed of New York’s cannabis program’s growth. In an interview, she commented that legalization is “long-overdue” and “we need the money.” She will gain much political capital by embracing adult-use cannabis as her first success story. It will not be surprising if the ball starts rolling rapidly.

The CCB has announced that they would begin accepting applications for social equity retail licenses starting on August 25th and ending on September 26, 2022.

How big is the opportunity? 

New York is rapidly emerging as one of the most significant cannabis markets in the United States. In 2023, New York’s licensed cannabis dispensaries have already reported over $100 million in adult-use sales, marking a significant milestone in the state’s rapidly growing cannabis market. This achievement underscores the immense opportunity presented by New York’s legalization of recreational cannabis, making it a pivotal market for the industry.

Looking ahead, BDSA, a leading market research firm, predicts that total legal cannabis sales in New York will reach approximately $1.3 billion in 2023. The market is expected to continue its robust growth, with projections indicating a rise to around $2.7 billion by 2027. This growth trajectory is set to position New York as a top five US cannabis market by dollar sales by 2026.

Local Cannabis Restrictions & Laws

One of the provisions of the MRTA gave local governments the option of opting out of the state-issuing licenses for marijuana dispensaries and on-site consumption lounges until December 31, 2021. A town, city, or village determined to outright ban or restrict marijuana must adopt a local law requesting the prohibition of dispensaries or consumption lounges in their jurisdiction.

Now that the deadline has passed, out of New York’s 1,520 municipalities, 753 opted out of dispensaries, and 877 opted out of consumption sites. Please view the list of municipalities that have chosen to prohibit the establishment of adult-use marijuana stores and on-site consumption lounges in their jurisdiction here.

How much does it cost to open a dispensary in New York?

So, how much do you need to start a dispensary? Here are the costs and capital requirements associated with opening a dispensary.

Dispensary license fees depend on which license you applied for. A conditional adult-use retail license fee in New York costs $2000. Meanwhile, a general dispensary license costs $1000 for application fee, $7000 for license fee, and $3000 for limited retail consumption facility.

Real Estate & Renovation

You can buy or lease cannabis real estate to run your cannabis businesses. Because New York is such a large state with diverse property and rental values, it’s essential to research where you’d like to open your dispensary business. These are the costs for New York cannabis dispensary real estate:

  • Buying a property outright can vary wildly. For example, it can range from $128/sq ft to $393/sq ft.
  • On the other hand, if you are limited to leasing the property, monthly costs for a marijuana store might run between $3,500 and $10,000 or even higher.

It is also necessary to factor in the construction and renovation of the property to comply with standards, maximize store flow and reflect your brand image. According to Grow America Builders, renovation of smaller dispensaries costs between $350,000 and $500,000, mid-sized dispensaries between $500,000 and $750,000, and large dispensaries above $750,000. In addition, a renovation of an existing building can cost $350,000 – $1,000,000.

How profitable is a New York dispensary?

You might wonder how profitable a dispensary is and how much an owner makes?

A Factbook found that a dispensary can make an average of $974 per square foot of dispensary space each year. In addition, Statista research estimates the average dispensary could generate up to $1.8 million in profit from approximately $3 million in revenue.

According to data published by MMJ Business Daily, 15% of dispensary owners reported annual revenue of less than $100,000, 27% reported sales of between $100,000 and $250,000, 15% reported sales of between $500,000 and $1 million, and over a quarter of dispensaries reported annual revenues of more than $1 million.

As more information about New York’s Adult Cannabis program develops, we will weigh our thoughts on the state’s specific profitability.

Here are some of the dispensary open now in New York and their annual revenue:

How to Apply for a Dispensary License in New York

Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary License Application: CLOSED

Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) applications opened on August 25, 2022 and ended on September 26, 2022.

The conditional adult-use retail dispensary license is a subclass of the retail dispensary license. It is only accessible to applicants who fit the qualifying requirements. Those who are granted licenses have access to a $200 million Social Equity Cannabis Fund and turnkey storefronts.

CAURD License Eligibility in New York

To get a CAURD license in New York, you or a family member must have a prior cannabis-related offense and have prior company ownership and operating experience. Only people considered to be “justice-involved” are eligible to apply for a conditional adult-use retail dispensary license. This applied to the first 100 to 200 licenses.

Conditional dispensaries are the first to operate in the state by the end of 2022, while others may follow in early 2023.

A conditional adult-use retail dispensary license is good for four years and must be renewed every two years. Before the expiry of conditional licenses, license holders may seek to transition to a standard retail dispensary license, as prescribed by the Office in anticipated adult-use retail dispensary rules currently under preparation.

Applicants seeking a conditional adult-use retail dispensary license must meet the following requirements:

  • must be justice-involved, which means an individual convicted of a marijuana-related offense in New York before March 31, 2021, or had a family member or dependent who was convicted, or was a dependent of someone convicted.
  • must have owned at least 10% of a thriving business for two years
  • if applying as a person, must be a New York resident
  • if applying as an organization, must have a significant corporate presence in New York or be created under New York laws

You can learn more about the program by visiting New York’s CAURD page here.

CAURD Regional Preference and Allocations

The applicants will be asked to choose up to five (5) different regions within the state of New York as their top choices for the site of a dispensary. A commuter-adjusted population estimate will be used to determine how licenses are distributed across the fourteen (14) regions. The following is a breakdown of New York State according to its regions and the maximum number of CAURD licenses available:

RegionCommuter Adjusted PopulationMaximum # of CAURD LicensesPopulation Per Dispensary Ratio
Manhattan3,375,05922153,411
Long Island3,110,06720155,503
Brooklyn2,852,63219150,138
Mid-Hudson2,603,48917153,146
Queens2,525,12016157,820
Western New York1,622,46111147,496
The Bronx1,565,98810156,598
Finger Lakes1,383,3039153,700
Capital Region1,145,3707163,624
Central New York1,093,2197156,174
North Country586,4264146,606
Southern Tier480,7533160,251
Staten Island500,9263166,975
Mohawk Valley281,9832140,991

General Adult-Use Retail Dispensary License Application: CLOSED 

The general adult use retail dispensary applications opened on October 4, 2023 and ended on December 18, 2023.

To apply for a general adult-use cannabis dispensary license in New York, you must be at least 21 years old and not prohibited by Cannabis Law or regulations due to prior non-cannabis convictions. Once licensed, you can sell cannabis products to customers over 21 at a physical retail dispensary, deliver cannabis products to customers over 21 and organize cannabis events.

To start the application process:

  1. The submission of all applications must be done online.
  2. Create an account or sign in to your existing one on NY.gov.
  3. After you have submitted your application, log in to monitor the progress of your application.

The license application consists of 2 to 4 parts, including Primary License Application Social and Economic Equity (SEE) Certification, True Parties of Interest (TPI) Disclosures, and Location and Operations Section.

For more information about cannabis retail license applications, here’s a guide from the NY Office of Cannabis Management.

Medical Marijuana Program Opportunities

The first move to legalize medical marijuana was in 2014 with the Compassionate Care Act. Only five licenses were granted at that time, and no new licenses have been given since the deadline of June 5, 2015. Forty-three applicants applied to manufacture and dispense medical cannabis. The state law initially allowed five organizations to register, with each organization authorized to operate four medical marijuana dispensaries statewide. As of March 2023, there are a total of 40 registered organizations.

Registered Organization Application

In New York, a Registered Organization refers to a business entity that is licensed by the state to produce and distribute medical cannabis and then distribute them to registered patients who have qualifying medical conditions.

Both individuals and corporations, whether nonprofit or for-profit organizations, were eligible for a Registered Organization (RO) registration. However, please note that applications for RO registrations closed on December 19, 2023.

To initiate the application process, each prospective applicant was required to submit a non-refundable application fee of $10,000.00 before the application deadline. If an applicant was successfully approved for registration, they were required to remit a registration fee of $200,000.00 within ten (10) business days. These fees had to be paid using certified checks, with each check payable to the New York State Office of Cannabis Management. For more information, you can read the application instructions here.

Recreational Use Legalization

As stated, New York has become the 15th state to legalize recreational marijuana. On March 31, 2021, then Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill to legalize recreational cannabis for adults 21 years old and older. Here’s the whole language of the bill: The Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act.

Here are the key takeaways from the act:

  • The act legalizes recreational cannabis for adults over 21 years old.
  • Retail sales of cannabis by 2022.
  • As for personal use, up to six cannabis plants are allowed at home and up to 12 plants are allowed in a household with more than one adult.
  • A system for licensure will be created for growers, process manufacturers, distributors, retailers (dispensaries), and co-ops.
  • Vertical integration is  prohibited. Vertical integration controls the entire supply chain, such as a business that operates a grow, manufacturer, and retail store. The only exception to this rule appears to be existing medical cannabis businesses and cannabis microbusinesses.
  • Cannabis Delivery Services are allowed.
  • Social Consumption Sites (cannabis lounges) are allowed.

Who is responsible for the regulation of Cannabis in New York?

Regulation is under the management of the newly created Office of Cannabis Management, and it is responsible for adult use, medical, and cannabinoid hemp industries. The Cannabis Control Board oversees this office, including five appointed members. Three would be appointed by the governor and one each is to the senate and assembly, respectively.

According to New York’s Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act, the Cannabis Advisory Board helps create the social and economic equity plan and supports the Cannabis Control Board in developing laws for the broader program. On June 22nd, 2022, the appointment of additional members to New York’s Cannabis Advisory Board was announced by Governor Hochul. This board works with the Office of Cannabis Management to develop a legal cannabis business in New York that is equitable and welcoming to everyone.

11 Adult-use Cannabis License Types

Adult-use Cultivator License

The Adult Use Cultivator License allows individuals to cultivate cannabis plants, which includes various activities such as growth, cloning, harvesting, drying, curing, grading, and trimming. The license permits the acquisition, possession, distribution, cultivation, and sale of cannabis to processors, but an individual can only hold one cultivator license at a time. Cultivators may have one processor and distributor license, but only to distribute their own products. It is prohibited for growers to have any ownership or interest in a retail license.

Adult-use Nursery License 

An Adult Use Nursery License is intended for licensees who produce cannabis clones, seeds, and other agricultural products solely for licensed adult-use cannabis cultivators, microbusinesses, cooperatives, and registered organizations to propagate and cultivate their marijuana plants. The license permits the sale, production, and distribution of cannabis clones, immature plants, cannabis seeds, and other agricultural products used for planting and propagation of marijuana by licensed adult-use cultivators, cooperatives, microbusinesses, or registered organizations. An adult-use cultivator may hold one nursery license.

Adult-use Processor License 

Concentrated cannabis extraction and/or compounding, blends, extractions, infusions, or other manufacturing of concentrated cannabis and/or cannabis products are referred to as “processing.” An adult-use cannabis processor license permits the acquisition, possession, processing, and sale of cannabis from adult-use cultivators to licensed distributors. No one can own more than one processing business license. A processor can also get a distributor’s license to sell their products. It’s not allowed for processors to own or have any interest in a retail license.

Adult-use Distributor License 

A “distributor” is any individual selling cannabis products wholesale. An adult-use distributor license permits acquisition, possession, distribution, and cannabis sale from cultivator, processor, cooperative, microbusiness, or RO to licensed retail dispensaries, delivery, and on-site consumption sites. A person may not have more than one distributor license simultaneously. In the cannabis retail tier, distributors are not permitted to own or have any involvement in a licensee.

Adult-use Cooperative License 

An adult-use cooperative license permits the acquisition, possession, cultivation, processing, and sale from the adult-use cooperative to licensed distributors, on-site consumption sites, registered organizations, and retail dispensaries. A cooperative license should be structured under cooperative principles, including democratic governance by members, one vote per member. There should be no more than one cooperative license per individual. Cannabis retail licenses may not be owned by cooperatives.

Adult-use Microbusiness License 

The Adult-use Microbusiness License grants permission to individuals to grow, process, distribute, and sell cannabis products. This license allows for limited cultivation, processing, distribution, delivery, and sale of adult-use cannabis and related products. One person cannot hold more than one microbusiness license at a time, and microbusinesses cannot have any interest or ownership in any other adult-use licenses.

Adult-use Retail Dispensary License 

An Adult-use Retail Dispensary License is issued to individuals who sell cannabis products to customers in a retail setting. This license permits the possession, sale, and delivery of cannabis to customers from the retail dispensary. One person is limited to owning a maximum of three retail marijuana dispensary licenses. Retail licensees are not allowed to have any ownership or interest in cultivation, processing, or distribution tiers of the cannabis industry.

Adult-use On-site Consumption License 

The Adult-use On-site Consumption License allows for the consumption of cannabis at licensed locations approved by the Cannabis Control Board. This license permits acquisition, possession, cultivation, processing, and sale from adult-use cooperatives to licensed distributors, on-site consumption sites, registered organizations, and retail dispensaries.The maximum number of on-site consumption licenses a person may hold is three. Licensees for on-site consumption are prohibited from owning or investing in licensees in the production, processing, or distribution levels of the cannabis sector.

Adult-use Delivery License

Delivery of cannabis and cannabis products to adults is legal with a delivery license.  There cannot be more than twenty-five people listed on a delivery license each week providing full-time paid delivery services to cannabis customers.  There can only ever be one owner of a delivery license. A delivery licensee is not permitted to have any other kind of adult-use license.

Registered Organization Adult-use Cultivator Processor Distributor Retail Dispensary License 

A license permits a registered organization to have the same privileges and conditions as an adult-use cultivator, processor, distributor, and retail dispensary licensee. The site of adult-use retail dispensaries operated by registered organizations will be restricted to three of the organization’s medical dispensaries, and the organization will only be authorized to distribute its products. No registered organization may own or hold any other adult-use license types.

Registered Organization Adult-use Cultivator Processor Distributor License 

A license permits a registered organization to have the same privileges as an adult-use cultivator, processor, and distributor licensee.

There can be no interest in or ownership of any other adult-use license type from a registered organization.

According to the 2023 Annual Report, the OCM has granted licenses to 279 conditional cultivators, 40 conditional processors, 41 conditional adult-use retail dispensaries, and 10 Registered Organizations.

Navigating the complexities of these licenses can be challenging. For expert assistance in understanding and acquiring the right cannabis license for your business, visit this page.

Social and Economic Equity Program

Fifty percent of licenses are allocated to social and economic equity (SEE) applicants.

On June 22, 2022, Governor Hochul outlined the next steps to be done to promote equity in the rapidly booming cannabis industry. Social Equity Impact Ventures, LLC, a prominent minority-led investment firm, has been chosen as the sponsor and manager of the $200 million New York Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund.

SEE Priority Consideration

Applications from individuals in the following SEE groups will receive priority:

  • Community Disproportionately Impacted Individuals
  • Distressed Farmers
  • Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses
  • Minority-Owned Businesses
  • Women-Owned Businesses

SEE Extra Priority Consideration

To receive extra priority, applications must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Belong to a community disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition enforcement.
  • Have an income lower than 80% of the median income in the applicant’s county.
  • Have a previous cannabis-related conviction before the effective date of the MRTA, or be related to or dependent on someone convicted of such an offense prior to March 31, 2021.

Application Process

  • SEE applicants will be asked to identify all SEE groups they qualify for during the application.
  • Applicants will be grouped based on:
    • License type sought.
    • SEE certification.
    • Provisional status.
  • Once the application window closes, applications within each group will be randomly ordered.

To learn more about adult-use social & economic equity application, here’s a guide provided by the OCM, including the qualifications, benefits, and what to keep in mind before applying.

In the upcoming weeks and through 2024, we anticipate many new events that will affect how quickly this happens, what the requirements will look like to start a marijuana dispensary, and when the state will begin accepting license applicants. By adding yourself to our New York Cannabis Mailing List (Below), we will keep you updated on all relevant news that matters, and not so easy to find news and comments based on New York Legalization below. This includes but is not limited to:

  • What are the requirements to get a marijuana business license and open a dispensary in New York?
  • How do I open a medical dispensary in New York?
  • What special programs will be available?
  • And more

Just fill out the information below to get access.

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