New York CAURD Licensee in Limbo After Veteran Lawsuit

Last week, the Cannabis Impact Prevention Coalition filed a lawsuit against New York and the state Office of Cannabis Management. The suit challenges the legality of a $200 million Cannabis Social Equity Fund that was established to help open more marijuana retail shops in the state. 

The judge sided with the coalition and issued an injunction preventing OCM from awarding any more CAURD licenses or allowing any more CAURD stores to open. 

While this lawsuit has put all licensees’ proposed business operations on hold and impacted many, Cannabis Regulator spoke with one CAURD licensee about his experience and how he feels about the situation.

Recreational Dispensary Plans at a Hault

Mario Ramos is a 56-year-old military veteran who served time for a cannabis-related offense and was recently awarded a social equity license in New York’s CAURD program. However, his plans to open his own dispensary are now on hold due to the lawsuit challenging the program’s interpretation of “social equity.”

“I just got my social equity justice, and in the same week, they took it right back,” Ramos says. “There are people who are ahead of me and working hard for their dispensary, and then for them to get stopped just because these four gentlemen put a lawsuit in, it’s hurting a lot of people including me in every way.”

Ramos just recently received his recreational marijuana dispensary license. He had an investor ready to give him funding and was about to sign a lease at a great location. Now, with the lawsuit, the investor is on hold and the landlord is pulling back a little on the agreement since Ramons can’t sign anything just yet. 

“I was ready, we were all ready, for the customers to come. This took so much hard work. If I lose that, I may have to start all over again. It’s a nightmare. I will have to renegotiate everything,” Ramos says. 

Luckily, Ramos has another business he owns, which helps to pay the bills. I Bud You is an e-commerce website offering t-shirts and sweatshirts, skateboards and more featuring cannabis-themed artwork. Some artwork is from Ramos himself, and others are from collaborations.

The List of Problems Keeps Growing

Because of this lawsuit and all of the negative impacts it has caused, Ramos suspects there will be a lot of repercussions to follow. Actions like this are what push people to use the black market for marijuana purchases, which is already a significant problem. And then once police get involved for black market sales, it becomes a big circle of never-ending problems. 

“We need to educate the judge,” Ramos says. “I want to be able to say that they are hurting us. This is not getting resolved fast enough for everyone. I know a few people already with keys to their stores and products already in the stores. It’s a nightmare. We need to open up.” 

This lawsuit is also impacting The Chicago Atlantic’s $150 million investment in the social equity fund. The firm that bankrolled the state’s funding will continue to invest in building out turnkey storefronts, but will taper its investment until the lawsuit is resolved. 

The NYS Senate Subcommittee on Cannabis announced it will be holding its first hearing on the lawsuit on Tuesday, October 30 at 11 a.m. in Albany. More details about the hearing are expected to come out as the date draws near.