New York City Cannabis Continues Its Growth Trajectory
The state is hard at work shaping its cannabis landscape in preparation for the first recreational sales.
It’s been a busy year for adult-use legalization. Connecticut and Virginia both legalized through their legislatures, as did New Mexico, while South Dakota continues to scrap over the adult-use portion of last year’s successful dual-medical/adult-use ballot initiatives. However, it should not go unnoticed that New York joined the ever-growing list of states to legalize adult-use. New York is home to the biggest and wealthiest city in the country, as well as acres of arable land and an already-established hemp and medical cannabis market. The Empire State is certain to help create at least one or two new empires in cannabis if current trends continue – and there is no reason to expect they won’t. And this week, key selections for the state industry’s governing bodies were made, bringing New York closer to the moment when it opens its doors to an industry estimated to be worth $7 billion dollars once it is fully realized.
For now, as reported in the Times Herald-Record, New Yorkers can possess up to three ounces of flower cannabis, or 24 grams of concentrates. They can legally transport, possess, obtain and even purchase it — but selling it for adult-use purposes is still illegal without licensure. The earliest regulated and licensed cannabis sales date listed was April 1st, 2021, which is when the tax structure kicks in. The article also indicates that cannabis can be legally smoked wherever cigarettes can be consumed, with notable exceptions, such as at cigar bars, in one’s car or in the smoking area of a bar, restaurant or any establishment that serves food. Even staunchly traditional venues such as the New York State Fair, are reviewing their policies to make way for the new normal.
The state’s landmark legalization bill, entitled the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), emerged in late March after years of wrangling with the state’s then-Governor Andrew Cuomo. The MTRA created two committees to oversee the industry. First is the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), which “oversee(s) the licensure, cultivation, production, distribution, tax and sale of medical, adult-use and cannabinoid hemp within New York State,” according to the OCM’s website and the Cannabis Control Board. The OCM will in turn be governed by the Cannabis Control Board (CCB), which will “oversee and implement” the state laws and regulations. Cuomo’s successor Kathy Hochul has already nominated both the OCM’s Executive Director, cannabis industry vet and policy coordinator for the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance Chris Alexander, and the CCB’s chair, former state Assembly member Tremaine Wright.
This week, the state’s Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins nominated former state Senator Jen Metzger for the CCB. This selection was made a day after the Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie made his CCB choice, Buffalo lawyer Adam Perry, public. The speed of these developments suggests the eagerness of the state to get busy on building the foundation for an industry that can help a state that continues to reel from deficits brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Daily Orange, these deficits for the state will total $39 billion over the next four years. The state estimates yearly revenue from cannabis at $360 million dollars once the MRTA is fully implemented. These revenues will come from a flat 13% state tax from consumers, a tax on distribution-to-retail sales based on THC content and biannual license fees.
Once all the appointments have been made, the creation of regulations will commence.
During a hearing with the Senate Finance Committee, Tremaine Wright estimated that the quickest timeline for completed regulations would be three months, which he cautioned was a “best-case scenario.” In the meantime, cities, villages and towns in New York have until the end of this year to determine whether or not to allow which types of cannabis businesses to open within their jurisdictions. Only a few of them have made choices so far; they range from the prohibitionist Cazenovia, which told the New York Times that “the cart is way out in front of the horse,” to Warwick, which plans to convert a former penitentiary into a “cannabis cluster” of businesses devoted to the new industry.
For those who prefer to grow their own, the Times Heral Record indicates, New York allows people to do just this, 18 months after legal sales commence. Once permitted, they will be allowed to cultivate up to three mature plants and three cannabis plants, with a hard limit at six mature plants and six immature per private residence. On the other hand, medical growers or their caregivers can start growing as soon as October, six months after the MRTA was signed. And anybody with an arrest or conviction on their record involving cannabis-related conduct that is now legal under the MRTA may be subject to automatic expungement.
In short, while it may take a while to get to the ultimate finish line, the wheels are in motion, and New Yorkers are already starting to reap the benefits of legalization, with the best yet to come.
View the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act Here:
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