NY on verge of settling in suit alleging state favored drug dealers over disabled vets for pot licenses
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s regulators are on the verge of settling a discrimination lawsuit alleging that the state favored convicted pot felons over disabled veterans in the awarding of licenses to sell legal marijuana.
The move would accelerate the opening of hundreds of cannabis stores left in limbo by the Empire State’s legal weed war.
The details of the proposed agreement weren’t made public, but the state Cannabis Control Board has called for an emergency meeting on Monday to approve the settlement in the case brought by disabled vets Carmine Fiore, William Norgard, Steve Mejia and Dominic Spaccio.
“The parties wish to enter into a settlement agreement and stipulation of dismissal to resolve the Fiori Action and the Coalition Action without further litigation,” the proposed resolution to be voted on by the board states.
“Now, therefore, be it, resolved the Board approves entering into a settlement agreement and stipulation of dismissal for the Fiori Action and Coalition Action.”
New York officials got burned after Albany Supreme Court Justice Kevin Bryant issued an injunction in August that put the state’s problem-plagued cannabis program on ice.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s regulators are on the verge of settling a discrimination lawsuit alleging that the state favored convicted pot felons over disabled veterans in the awarding of licenses to sell legal marijuana.REUTERS
Bryant agreed with the plaintiffs that the state likely illegally favored drug felons over other groups in dishing out licenses to sell ganja under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act of 2021.
Because of the litigation and the injunction, the state could not approve the opening of scores of licensed cannabis operators.
Pot dealers lit up over the anticipated settlements.
“After months of the harmful impact on legal operators trying to open, there is some great holiday daze for the entire cannabis community,” said Osbert Orduna, CEO of The Cannabis Place, who runs a Queens-based licensed pot delivery service but was blocked from opening an approved weed store on Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village due to the injunction.
The cannabis control board was scheduled to approve the proposed settlement at a previous meeting, but the vote was set aside amid last minute haggling between the parties, sources said.
The state Cannabis Control Board has called for an emergency meeting on Monday to approve the settlement in the case brought by disabled vets Carmine Fiore, William Norgard, Steve Mejia and Dominic Spaccio.AFP via Getty Images
Carmine Fiore, 38, claims the move was payback for his public criticism of the state’s legal pot rollout.Stephen Yang
The regulators are now also scheduled to settle a second, similar lawsuit filed in March by a coalition including some of New York’s medical marijuana companies that also claimed state officials exceeded their legal authority when they opened the initial application pool only to people with past pot convictions or their relatives, instead of to everyone.
“The challenges of standing up a new market built on equity have been enormous,” state Office of Cannabis executive director Chris Alexander said in a recent note to weed applicants and licensees.
“I share in the frustration that I know many of you feel… I said this a year ago, I said this in June, and I’ll say it again: Your success is our success. We will not stop pursuing all possible pathways to get your businesses open. I thank you for your continued courage and commitment,” Alexander said.
The slow pace of the legal weed program has given illicit peddlers ample time to establish a big foothold — by setting up unlicensed shops that mostly do business in cash and don’t pay cannabis taxes that licensed marijuana dispensary stores must pay.