New York issued its first 36 cannabis dispensary licenses on Monday, a big step in establishing a legal — and lucrative — marketplace for recreational marijuana, the Associated Press reports. The licenses approved by the state’s Cannabis Control Board were the first of 175 the state plans to issue, with many in the first round reserved for applicants with past convictions for marijuana offenses. Eight nonprofit groups were among the 36 licensees granted Monday. Some of the dispensaries, selected from a pool of more than 900 applicants, are expected to open by the end of the year. New York has also planned a $200 million public-private fund to aid “social equity” applicants to help redress the ravages of the war on drugs, especially in communities of color.
A court ruling this month delayed the board from approving dispensaries in some parts of the state amid a legal dispute over licensing criteria. Nevertheless, officials said they would issue the remaining licenses as quickly as possible. Housing Works, a New York City nonprofit, said the license it received Monday would allow it to continue its work helping low-income New Yorkers living with HIV or AIDS. “It was clear to us that sales from the legal recreational cannabis industry would allow us to help more people and increase services to our clients whether that is supporting those that have been unjustly incarcerated in the War on Drugs, or people experiencing homelessness and/or living with HIV/AIDS,” the group said.