The first NY cannabis licenses have been approved — but these are the 3 obstacles dispensaries still face

Business Insider Features Lee & Associates New York City's Greg Tannor


The first legal dispensary in New York state opened its doors in December, but a commercial-real-estate expert said cannabis-business owners have some hefty obstacles to overcome before they can follow suit.

In March 2021, the state of New York legalized recreational marijuana for adults, but it took nearly two years for the Office of Cannabis Management to approve the first 36 business licenses for dispensaries. The next hurdle is finding the right real estate for stores,  Greg Tannor, a real-estate executive with Lee & Associates NYC, told Insider.

According to Tannor, opening a brick-and-mortar dispensary isn't quite the same process as a opening a brick-and-mortar coffee shop or clothing store. There are "buffer zones" that cannabis-business owners must take into account while shopping for real estate.

"Buffer zones are crucial for approval for the OCM," Tannor told Insider. "These locations have to be outside of a certain vicinity of schools, places of worship, parks, and other dispensaries."

To comply with New York's buffer zones, a cannabis business cannot be within 500 feet of school or within 200 feet of a house of worship, according to a report from Bloomberg. The businesses must also be 1,000 feet away from other dispensaries, Tannor added.

Hesitant landlords are another hurdle license holders will have to overcome to open storefronts. Marijuana's illegal status at the federal level coupled with the poor reputation of illicit New York smoke shops means building owners often have reservations about leasing to legal dispensaries.

Lee & Associates offers an array of real estate services tailored to meet the needs of the company’s clients, including commercial real estate brokerage, integrated services, and construction services. Established in 1979, Lee & Associates is now an international firm with offices throughout the United States and Canada. Our professionals regularly collaborate to make sure they are providing their clients with the most advanced, up-to-date market technology and information. For the latest news from Lee & Associates, visit or follow us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Link, our company blog.