Last week, New York State officials released major marijuana news as the first privately owned store in upstate New York selling legal marijuana opened in downtown Ithaca.
But people who’ve been keeping an eye on legal marijuana distribution in the state might wonder about opening this store, William Jane’s Pharmacy at 119 E. State St., near Ithaca Commons.
Since last fall, a temporary injunction has prevented the state from issuing retail licenses in five regions of the state, including the Finger Lakes and Central New York. The injunction was issued in response to a lawsuit filed by an out-of-state cannabis operator alleging that the state’s licensing rules violate the interstate commerce clause of the US Constitution.
So how did Ithaca, which sits right on Cayuga Lake and in the heart of Finger Lakes wine country, find a marijuana shop?
In this case, it appears that New York State classifies Ithaca as a region of the Southern Tier. The injunction does not currently apply to the region, which most New Yorkers know primarily as a strip of counties along the Pennsylvania border that includes places like Binghamton, Elmira, Corning, and Olean.
Many New York State government departments identify Ithaca and Tompkins County as being in the Finger Lakes. This includes the State Parks Department, which includes Ithaca area attractions such as the states of Taugannock Falls and Buttermilk Falls in the Finger Lakes area. The state Department of Transportation, meanwhile, lists Ithaca and Tompkins County as part of its New York City Central region, rather than the southern tier.
But the state Office of Cannabis Management, which issues weed licenses, gets its regional definition from the Empire State Development Authority, which manages economic development programs.
“The regional maps we use are based on the ESD regions for New York, and in this definition, Ithaca actually falls into the southern tier!” wrote OCM spokesman Aaron Gitelman in an email response to a question from syracuse.com.
So, on March 16, the William Jane dispensary opened in Ithaca. It sells marijuana flowers and pre-rolls, vapes, edibles like chewing gums, and more.
It belongs to William Durham, a Brooklyn native who has lived most of his life in the southern city of Binghamton. He was eligible for a license under the state’s Conditional Retail Marijuana Use (CAURD) program, which restricts current licenses to individuals or close relatives of individuals convicted of marijuana offenses that are no longer considered crimes.
A later separate lawsuit against the state now challenges the core premise of the CAURD program. Government officials say the CAURD program is designed to provide “social justice” for those who have been prosecuted in the past by drug enforcement authorities, while a lawsuit filed by some large multi-state cannabis companies alleges that it discriminates against others. wishing to obtain a license.
In an earlier lawsuit, the Michigan plaintiff argued that the state’s requirement that applicants must have a presence in New York State was illegal.
This plaintiff, Variscite NY One, has identified the Finger Lakes, Central New York, Western New York, Mid-Hudson, and Brooklyn as areas in which it will seek licenses, and therefore the injunction only applies in those areas. Licensing may currently apply to other regions, including the Southern Tier, New York except Brooklyn, Long Island, the Capital Region, the Mohawk Valley, and the North Country.
With the addition of the Ithaca office in New York State, there are now five state-licensed dispensaries open for adult non-medical use. Three in New York and one in Binghamton. One in New York and one in Ithaca were awarded to individuals under CAURD, while the other went to non-profit agencies serving communities that have been affected by drug control in the past.
The state’s OCM told syracuse.com that the regional injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Gary Sharp does not apply to non-profit applicants, but only to individuals who are called “involved in justice.”
Here’s how Loretto, a Syracuse-based non-profit aged care agency, got its license. The dispensary associated with Loretto has yet to announce when and where it will open.
In addition to state-licensed dispensaries, there are others operating throughout the state in the sovereign territories of the Indian nation.
Syracuse’s largest nursing home operator receives first legal weed license in Central New York.
The four Indian nations of upstate New York are in the marijuana business. One stays away
Central New York expands its first marijuana-based beverage business in the state
More cannabis coverage in downtown New York