Déjà vu: Allerton cannabis dispensary meets latest obstacle after judge reverses order

Denis Ozkurt looks off camera with a bottle of cannabis capsules labeled "love" on a counter in front of him and his cousin Levent Ozkurt stands on the other side of the counter holding a bottle that says "chill" on it.
Denis Ozkurt, left, and Levent Ozkurt consider cannabis products for their dispensary on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023.
Photo Aliya Schneider

Levent and Denis Ozkurt thought they finally had the green light to open their state-regulated recreational cannabis dispensary on Williamsbridge Road Friday. But they hit another bump in the road this week when a judge reversed his decision allowing them to open their doors.

As part of a legal battle against the statewide retail cannabis rollout, state officials were supposed to submit a list of dispensaries to the court that met all requirements for licensing. Instead, they sent a list of 30 that included shops still finalizing construction — making it impossible to pass the compliance check required for a full license.

“It is not clear to this Court whether any of the thirty identified licensees have completed all post-selection requirements and inspections and it should be clear that those who have not, should not have been included on the list submitted to the Court as set forth in the prior Order,” Judge Kevin Bryant said in his Monday decision.

However, the Ozkurts — the only Bronx dispensary owners on the list — received all the necessary approvals. They only needed to obtain the actual license for their shop, which is called Hush — a tribute to the “hush-hush” nature of the dispensaries.

“There is nothing else for us to do besides just literally receiving the license,” Levent Ozkurt told the Bronx Times. “We fulfilled all of their requirements, all of their inspections, everything.”

Judge allows Williamsbridge Road dispensary to open amid statewide cannabis legal battle

The cousins passed their compliance inspection on Aug. 3 and even received an official label to put on their 2460 Williamsbridge Road storefront signaling state approval. They expected to receive their license a couple of days later, but it never arrived.

Just the day before the Ozkurts’ inspection, a group of service-disabled veterans filed a lawsuit in Albany Supreme Court against the state Cannabis Control Board and Office of Cannabis Management that argues the state’s licensing rollout — which has prioritized people with cannabis-related convictions, their family members and qualifying nonprofits — violates the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. As part of the case, the judge prohibited the state from opening any more dispensaries.

Then, in what was supposed to be a win for the cousins, the judge decided last Friday that 23 licensees from the list of 30 could proceed with opening, including the Ozkurts.

The Ozkurts expected to finally receive their license this Monday, but again, never got it.

The state Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) must now submit proof that the dispensaries they want to open have met all requirements, and the Ozkurts have found themselves facing the same situation they thought they just escaped.

close up of a sticker with a QR code and marijuana leaf in Denis Ozkurt's hands
Denis Ozkurt holds the sticker the cousins received to put in their window once their license arrives signaling they are approved by the state to sell. Photo Aliya Schneider

“We’re in a very bad predicament,” Levent Ozkurt told the Bronx Times. “It’s just a waiting game, unfortunately, and every time we get our hopes up, another wrench gets thrown into the mix.”

He said OCM plans to request permission for the Ozkurts to open their shop, along with a store upstate that also nearly obtained a full license. A lawyer for the state said in a court filing, however, that “most” of the 30 shops “have completed all licensing tasks.”

Levent Ozkurt doesn’t expect to hear the judge’s decision until Friday or Monday.

If they’re not approved, it would be “detrimental in every way,” he told the Bronx Times. The cousins already poured money into getting their shop to fulfill the state’s requirements and signing on to security contracts.

They also hired about 14 employees they intended to train upon receiving their full license in early August, but many seem to have lost interest in working at the shop. Levent Ozkurt said he can’t blame them, but at this point, they don’t know who is still on their team.

“And now we’re basically sitting on our hands waiting for them to say ‘go,'” he said.

There are just 23 licensed recreational dispensaries statewide, and about half a dozen only offer delivery.

Reach Aliya Schneider at aschneider@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes