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New York State legal cannabis market sales off to a slow start in first year

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New York State ended its first year of legal adult-use cannabis retail sales with about $150 million in revenue, a relatively slow start for a fledgling regulated market that has been projected to one day reach well into the billions.

New York wrapped up 2023 with 40 recreational retail dispensaries open for business across the state. Once final sales numbers come in for December, total revenue is projected to top $150 million, according to a Friday statement.

By comparison, states with more mature adult-use programs have been generating much higher revenue figures.

California generates about $423 million per month in legal adult-use cannabis sales, according to state data compiled by MJBiz. Massachusetts has reported $132.6 million per month in recreational sales, and Illinois has reported sales of $143.9 million per month.

The Empire State’s legal-cannabis rollout has been challenged by unlicensed stores that have sprung up around the state, as well as court fights.

But the state’s pace of awarding licenses has quickened of late, after the New York State Cannabis Control Board settled a lawsuit filed by disabled veterans challenging the state’s Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries program.

In November, the state also officially sanctioned its existing medical-use licensees to take part in the recreational market.

Those companies include Columbia Care, Curaleaf Holdings Inc.
CURLF,
-2.20%
,
Etain, Nycanna LLC, PharmaCann and Valley Agriceuticals LLC

Companies with an existing presence in the state’s medical program include Curaleaf Holdings, RIV Capital Inc. 
RIV,
-12.50%
,
Green Thumb Industries Inc.
GTBIF,
-4.90%

and privately-held PharmaCann.

While it’s been issuing more licenses for retail sales, cultivation and processing, New York has also been cracking down on the thousands of unlicensed pot sellers that have sprung up.

In 2023, the state issued 305 notices of violation/orders to cease, and seized more than 11,600 pounds of illicit products valued at $56 million.

Although recreational cannabis has been legal in New York since 2021, only social-equity applicants have received licenses until recently.

Also on Friday, Housing Works Cannabis Co., the first licensed adult-use cannabis dispensary in the state, marked one full year in business with sales of $24 million.

The dispensary is run by Housing Works, a nonprofit group that operates thrift stores and book shops as a provider of housing, healthcare and other services to New Yorkers affected by homelessness, substance abuse, AIDS, and involvement in the criminal justice system. 

Also read: New York marks first legal cannabis sale as prohibition officially ends in the Empire State

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