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State sued again over legal marijuana

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In addition to a lawsuit filed in state court challenging the legalization of marijuana in New York, the Cannabis Impact Prevention Coalition  has now filed a federal lawsuit.

The complaint filed against the state Office of Cannabis Management is challenging the legality of a $200 million Cannabis Social Equity Fund that the state created to help open more marijuana retail shops.

In the federal case, filed Aug. 25, the plaintiff group, the Cannabis Impact Prevention Coalition, claims New York’s legalized marijuana market violates federal law.

The state complaint, filed in June, is aimed at rescinding the 2021 legislation that legalized marijuana. The lawsuit accuses the state of making fraudulent claims about medical uses of marijuana.

In the federal case, the coalition considers marijuana retail stores “drug trafficking operations” and claims the state is “subject to federal prosecution for violating the federal Controlled Substance Act.”

“It is unlawful to knowingly open, lease, rent, maintain, or use property for the manufacturing, storing, or distribution of controlled substances,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also challenges the state’s “social equity” funding systems that prioritizes license applicants with past marijuana convictions.

The fund was struggling to get off the ground until a Chicago- based investment firm pledged up to $150 million. The money from Chicago Atlantic Admin LLC will be combined with $50 million in state funding to help finance retail shops to be run by individuals with past marijuana convictions. The money will pay for shops for licensees who will lease them with low-interest loans.

The federal lawsuit claims federal law prohibits marijuana use or trafficking, although 23 states, two U.S. territories and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana consumption and possession for those 21 and older.

“Their blatant disregard of every major objective embodied in federal controlled substances law directly conflicts with, and otherwise stands as an obstacle to, Congress’s mandate that production, possession and distribution of Schedule I drugs, including marijuana, be prohibited,” according to the lawsuit.

“The anti-cannabis coalition effectively is trying to do everything they can to make sure cannabis doesn’t come to New York state,” said Ryan McCall, a cannabis law attorney at Tully Rinckey PLLC.

“There’s been effectively anti-cannabis groups that have been out there since medical cannabis was introduced. They’re never going to go away,” McCall said.

“I think ultimately however we’ve reached a point where we’re not going back … We need to move forward, and we need to do it in a way where everybody within reason is going to be able to benefit or be appeased,” he said.

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