A lawsuit has been filed by Valencia AG, LLC against the Office of Cannabis Management, and its board members. In the Complaint, filed January 24, 2024, the Plaintiff alleges the current New York State Cannabis Law violates the United State Constitution through violating the Equal Protection Clause by prioritizing the applications of applicants that meet the Social and Economic Equity criteria (SEE).
New York State Cannabis Law authorized OCM to use their discretion to issue cannabis licenses in compliance with the New York State Cannabis Law. This meant that who received licenses, and how many licenses were issued, was the discretion of OCM. The law did state, however, that OCM needed to prioritize SEE applicants with the goal being that 50% percent of licenses would be awarded to SEE applicants. SEE applicants are businesses which are minority-owned and/or women-owned. The complaint alleges that SEE applicants specifically do not include Caucasian or “white” men.
The complaint further alleges that the OCM board is entirely made up of individuals who are either minorities, women, or minority women, and does not include any Caucasian men. The complaint argues that OCM and its board members purposefully implemented the SEE standards and procedures in a way that favored their own race and gender. According to the complaint, these favorable procedures included better queue positions, reduced application fees for SEE applicants, and a “head start” for their businesses over non-SEE applicants.
The Plaintiffs are looking for punitive damages, an award of “lost profits”, and the following relief from the Court.
- Revoke and cancel already issued licenses where the applicants qualified for SEE.
- Bar OCM from issuing licenses based on race or gender.
- Prohibit the processing of any application that claims to be by a SEE applicant.
- Refund all application fees to applicants that did not claim SEE and therefore paid higher fees.
- Order OCM to make all future application fees equal for all demographics.
The Wagoner Firm is closely monitoring this news and will continue to provide updates regarding legal action taken against OCM and its board members. If you are concerned on how this lawsuit will affect you or your business, please contact the Firm (518)-400-0995 to discuss further with a cannabis attorney.