Making a Better Portal for New York Cannabis License Applications
Proposed Changes to Improve the NY License Application Process
With the conditional adult use retail dispensary (“CAURD”) application window now closed for eager and eligible New Yorkers, we can more accurately reflect on the application process and specifically the application portal itself. New Yorkers will have ample opportunities in the months ahead to apply for a variety of licenses issued by the Office of Cannabis Management (“Office”), why not make the portal for these as accessible as possible? There are countless stressors already with applying for a license such as this, here are some proposed changes that could hopefully make a better New York application portal.
Multiple Documents Upload
A frequent complaint for applicants was the inability within the portal to upload multiple documents for a single question or request for documentation. Documents frequently had to be combined into one large and lengthy file to upload everything requested. Combining documents, too, could provide difficult and tedious based on the format of said documents. Allowing the option to upload multiple documents would offer applicants the opportunity to generate a more thoroughly detailed submission without having to go through the hassle of combining documentation.
Allow for “Jumping Around”
To proceed through the application, the portal forced applicants to fully complete one section before moving on to the next. The difficulty and frustration posed with this approach was that individuals who may have had over 90% of the application materials and questions answered based on the application mockup would be unable to proceed unless they had all questions and documents ready to be answered at one time vs working in batches over time. To circumvent this hurdle, individuals would resort to inserting placeholder documents and/or answers to proceed, resulting in a lengthier review process and risk of error prior to submission. Allowing an applicant to “jump around” the application, indicating which sections still required more information prior to submission but offering individuals the chance to proceed to upload other relevant materials, would be a refreshing update.
Increase Character Count in “Describe” Questions
Multiple questions within the application asked for additional writing, such as “Describe the operations of the qualifying business.” While this is a valid and understandable question, applicants expressed concern about limited character counts allowable for these descriptions, anywhere between just 250-300 characters. Expanding the character count would allow for more detail to be offered and paint a better picture for each individual applicant.
Improve Accessibility Across Devices
Forms that were required to be filled out for the application, including the True Party of Interest Personal History Disclosure, proved difficult or even incompatible with devices such as tablets (iPads, Surface Pro). Allowing these forms to be made more accessible across all devices would help applicants not have to change devices when filling out and submitting materials.
Remove Time Limits
If an applicant was on a page within the application for a certain period of time, they noted that the information they had already plugged in would be deleted and they would have to start over from scratch. Removing the time limit on pages, or at least extending it, would reduce some of the stress of filling out the information in a speedy manner.
Overall Process Takeaway
Overall, the experience with the CAURD application and my interactions with the Office were positive. The application mockup was a useful tool and reference leading up to the application window. The walkthrough video along with the lengthy and detailed FAQ proved beneficial in answering a number of questions about specific sections or requirements. But this does not mean the application process and portal can’t be improved. Given that more applications will be on the horizon in New York, now could be the perfect time to assess what can be improved for the future.
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