New York Cannabis: CAURD Injunction Update

On August 9, 2023, we wrote about the temporary injunction ordered by Judge Kevin Bryant in New York Supreme Court, County of Albany which occurred on August 7, 2023. That injunction provided, in sum, that the New York Cannabis Control Board (“CCB”) and Office of Cannabis Management (“OCM”) are restrained from awarding or further processing any more Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (“CAURD”) licenses. They are also constrained from conferring operational approval upon any more provisional or existing CAURD licenses, pending further order of the Court.

On Friday, August 18, 2023, Judge Bryan granted the preliminary injunction (the “Order”) against the CAURD licensing program, finding, inter alia, that the CCB and OCM exceeded their legal authority by creating a new licensing class that excluded specific minorities – namely disabled veterans – who were specifically prioritized in the 2021 state law that legalized recreational marijuana – the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (“MRTA”).

The Order prevents, the OCM and CCB from further processing or awarding more CAURD licenses. The Order provides an exception for many of the CAURD licensees who have already passed basic inspections and are ready to open.

The Order had the following implications:

It prohibited the OCM and CCB from processing or awarding any additional CAURD licenses.
However, it provided an exception for CAURD licensees who had met all requirements for licensing before August 7, 2023, including site plan approval from the CCB and, where applicable, local municipalities.

Judge Bryant’s decision was influenced by the fact that the OCM had made questionable decisions, such as creating the CAURD program and proceeding with licensing despite facing legal challenges– including the Variscite case and another lawsuit brought by the Coalition for Access to Regulated and Safe Cannabis. These challenges had the potential to invalidate the entire CAURD program.

“It was Defendant that decided to move forward and accelerate the CAURD program in the face of unresolved litigation and they were undeniably on notice of the alleged constitutional defects at issue,” Bryant wrote. “Despite this notice, Defendants encouraged potential licensees to incur significant expenses in reliance on a program that Defendants knew was at issue in pending litigation.

That language, Bryant wrote, was that the retail license period “be open to all applicants at the same time,” and that the OCM had no legal authority to create CAURD licenses, since those permits were not explicitly enumerated in state law.

In essence, the Order allows some existing CAURD licensees to continue their operations and open up dispensaries pending certain approval during the ongoing legal proceedings. However, it also suggests that the entire CAURD program may ultimately face significant challenges and potentially be invalidated.

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