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Cannabis attorney weighs in on Judge’s decision to temporarily ban the issuing of retail licenses

  • / Updated:
  • Rebecca Swift 

Ryan McCall is an Attorney at Tully Rinckey PLLC out of Albany. He specializes in cannabis law.

“I have a lot of friends who, growing up had convictions based on cannabis-related issues,” McCall said. “Now they finally have that path where they can start their own business and say ‘Listen, ‘I’m ready to become a business person and I really want to start to grow my community.’ And that’s really where my role comes in, and I love doing it.”

McCall sat down with to explain more about what’s going on with the pause on regulators issuing recreational retail cannabis licenses.

He explained that a Federal Judge out of the United States Northern District of New York made a decision, effectively saying that any recreational retail licenses being sold in five areas of NY, including the Finger Lakes, are now prohibited from issuing licenses.

He said that happened because a Michigan company called Variscite applied for the recreational retail cannabis licenses, that was part of the justice-involved program issued early in August through September. 

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

“The reason for that is, the Judge is using The Dormant Commerce Clause, which effectively states that you’re not allowed to discriminate against interstate commerce,” McCall said. “Saying that, well since this is a company that is based out of Michigan, or the majority shareholders are based out of Michigan, that they can’t apply for this program, which was for the justice-involved individuals to obtain that first bite at those first recreational retail licenses.”

From a lawyer’s perspective, why did it happen?

“That person who applied for the license was denied because they were an out-of-state resident,” McCall said. “The goal with the program was to target and benefit in-state residents. This person is now challenging that, saying it’s not allowed. The reason for that is they’re saying we’re discriminating against out-of-state commerce and we’re not supposed to do that, meaning that this person’s license should, in theory, should be granted. That’s that persons position.”

What could be the outcome?

“I think it’s a toss-up,” McCall said. “We’re going to need to see how this develops a little bit. We’re going to need to see testimony given on both sides as well as legal arguments. I think both sides do have their pros and cons. I think the big pro is The Dormant Commerce Clause is very strong. That’s one of the things the judge leaned on as far as issuing that decision. But I think the State has a strong opinion on, or strong facts on, is basically saying we’re doing our best to be able to help our residents and people that want to grow business in the State of New York that are from NY. Which, they do have some leverage there. So it’s really going to be a matter of seeing what testimony is given, what legal arguments are given, and where does the judge fall?”

Some business-owners in NY already got their licenses, but McCall said there are 250 that are still waiting to be issued.