While the New York adult-use cannabis market continues its lengthy trek to fully launch, the Empire State is slowly but surely making progress. Earlier in February, Upstate New York saw its first recreational cannabis dispensary open, Just Breathe at 75 Court Street in Binghamton.

On Wednesday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) paid a visit to the dispensary to show her support, though she did not leave the store with any cannabis products. 

“Not today,” Gov. Hochul told reporters prior to the visit who asked whether or not she’d be shopping. “But I’m gonna drop by. I want them to be successful.”

New York sales began in December, with Just Breathe as just the fourth cannabis shop to open in the state; the dispensary just began delivery services on Sunday. After the visit, Hochul took to Twitter to share a photo and video of the visit while praising New York’s equitable program.

“Visited Just Breathe in Binghamton, the first legal cannabis dispensary in the Southern Tier!” Hochul tweeted Wednesday. “I’m proud that New York is building the nation’s most equitable and inclusive cannabis industry, and we’ll keep working in communities across the state to help it grow.”

It’s not surprising that the governor didn’t leave with a few goodies, given a recent interview with WAMC podcast host Alan Chartock. During the podcast released last week, she said she has never used cannabis but implied that she may be open to changing that in the future.

“How’s the cannabis rollout been going? And do you smoke?” Chartock asked.

“No, I don’t,” Hochul said. “I have to say, despite going to school in the ‘70s, it’s nothing I ever partook in. But I’m not done living yet. You never know, Alan. You never know.”

She carried on to discuss the equity measures in New York during the interview, saying that New York had the luxury of looking at the successes and failures of other states that had already legalized cannabis. Hochul also referenced the continued delays for the New York cannabis market’s full-fledged launch. 

Continued Market Woes

Hochul cited a court injunction issued in November, which is blocking five of the 14 regions from issuing cannabis licenses under the Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) application program, as a primary hindrance. The injunction applies to CAURD applicants in the Finger Lakes, Central New York, Western New York, Mid-Hudson and Brooklyn.

The injunction came amid a lawsuit by a Michigan company that was denied approval to operate in the state, challenging the provision in the law requiring that licenses for retail cannabis dispensaries be awarded to people affected by drug laws in New York.

The slow pace for the New York market launch has caused a number of issues throughout the state, namely a number of unlicensed dispensaries in New York City.  Earlier this month, City Mayor Eric Adams and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced a partnership with local law enforcement and elected officials in an attempt to combat the unlicensed establishments. The NYPD filed complaints against four unlicensed establishments, seeking them to shut down for illegally selling cannabis to underage customers and for operating without a license.

Bragg also said that his office had sent notices to more than 400 smoke shops illegally selling cannabis, warning them to cease operations or face eviction.

“Legalizing cannabis was a major step forward for equity and justice — but we’re not going to take two steps back by letting illegal smoke shops take over this emerging market,” Mayor Adams said.

Earlier this week, Adams pleaded to state officials during a City Hall press conference to crack down on the more than 1,500 illegal cannabis shops in New York City, adding that fines and police aid aren’t enough to fix the problem.

“We have to zero in on this cannabis stuff,” Adams told reporters at the NYC City Hall on Tuesday. “This cannabis stuff is a real problem! And we must make sure that we can’t have people [make] a mockery of our system!”

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