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Licensing Delays Cause New York to Stumble in Legalizing Marijuana

As New York’s legal-cannabis rollout continues to stumble, it grows ever more obvious that the decision-makers were all far more focused on scoring symbolic points than on silly things like actually making it work.

The companies already OK’d to sell medical marijuana could have led the way to broader pot sales; instead, they got shut out.

Rather than pursuing its legislated mandate to develop licensing, regulations and guidelines for the sale of legal weed products, the state’s Office of Cannabis Management focused on a social-equity agenda by prioritizing applicants who had prior drug convictions.

Medical-MJ firms — who were the first in the state authorized to peddle any cannabis — just slammed the Hochul administration for blocking them from selling to all adult consumers.

“OCM has ignored the collective wisdom of every other state with an adult-use cannabis program — most recently Maryland — to permit existing medical operators to stand up the adult-use market,” the companies wrote in an Aug. 31 letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Of course, the gov’s brain trust at OCM also shut out the veterans that the law also directed them to prioritize for licenses; that’s led to a lawsuit that has all licensing on hold.

Meanwhile, OCM’s slow start in licensing anyone at all has led to just 23 licensed dispensaries open across the whole Empire State.

Instead, a brazen black and gray market of unlicensed weed shops has sprouted in the city, while tainted pot products are for sale at corner bodegas and smoke shops.

Crime has soared with the proliferation of bootleg storefronts and mobile dispensaries selling unregulated and untaxed products that are often the target of gun-toting thugs.

Another unanticipated spinoff: the surge in kids getting sick after accidentally eating cannabis gummies and other pot-infused candy — products not tested for safety under the rules OCM has set down.

Meanwhile, New York’s marijuana farmers are stuck with 300,000 pounds of spoiling product that they can’t sell to legal dispensaries that don’t exist. (The black-market shops have their own sources of supply, which again don’t comply with OCM regs.)

OCM is only now getting a handle on adding teeth to enforcement efforts in partnership with state and local enforcement authorities.

New York is losing millions in taxes due to lackluster legal marijuana sales, driven by the shortage of licensed dispensaries.

The state is poised to generate less pot-tax revenue than lower-population Massachusetts, Oregon and Michigan did in their first year of legal sales.

Hochul projected in January that the state would pull in $1.25 billion in taxes from the legal-weed market over the first six years.

That now looks like a joke.

If she wants to get closer to that goal, and reduce the black-market mess, the gov ought to replace the “leaders” at OCM with business-savvy pros who can jumpstart the industry into functionality.

New York can’t afford to have its weed regulator be led by dopes.

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