Is it true that New Yorkers are on the verge of having cannabis at restaurants? According to the New York Post, state officials have not ruled out the possibility. When New York’s retail weed sales start later this year, pizzerias and other eateries might be allowed to get licenses to serve cannabis-infused dishes. However, before weed enthusiasts flock to their corner pizza joint to order a flower topping, they must wait for regulators to decide.
Let’s look at New York’s cannabis market and the future for cannabis-infused eateries.
What does New York law say about cannabis eateries?
At the end of 2021, New York passed legislation legalizing adult-use marijuana. As a result, New Yorkers can possess up to three ounces of flower or 24 grams of concentrates. In the Fall, Empire state residents can start buying from cannabis-licensed dispensaries. After that, club-style consumption lounges will emerge in participating municipalities. While New York’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) doesn’t specify a plan for infused eateries, it doesn’t explicitly prohibit the concept either.
National laws surrounding cannabis-infused food and drinks
The FDA says it is still illegal to market cannabis and CBD by adding it to a food or drink item or labeling it as a dietary supplement. Yet states continue to permit CBD in foods and beverages, contradicting the FDA’s position.
In 2018, Colorado was the first state to contradict federal law by saying that all parts of hemp plants were OK to add to food for sale. The Washington Post reported that nearly half of U.S. states followed suit. The result was people flocking to cafes and restaurants searching for CBD cocktails, lattes, cookies, doughnuts, and dog treats.
Could New York be the next Colorado of cannabis?
Do other states allow restaurants to work with cannabis?
CBD and hemp-infused products are one thing, but a rep for the National Cannabis Industry Association said she was not aware of any state allowing weed-infused food licenses for pizzerias and other eateries that include THC levels higher than 0.3%. New York would be the first, which could set an important precedent.
What cannabis food products does New York currently allow?
In 2020, New York allowed businesses to sell hemp-derived CBD in food and drinks, excluding alcohol and tobacco. However, the rules specified that only manufacturers could create and sell infused edibles. Regulators strictly prohibited cafes and restaurants from adding extracts to the food they make on-site. As a result, bakeries can buy and sell pre-packaged CBD brownies to customers, but they can’t add CBD oil to their homemade recipes.
That said, certain New York establishments openly operate in a gray legal area. For instance, Stoned Pizza, located in New York City, offers THC-infused pies, deserts, garlic knots, and more for pickup and delivery. The restaurant also hosts curated weed dinner parties.
How is that legal? Officially, it’s not. But infused pizza sales could be allowed if New York lawmakers extend the state’s cannabis program beyond its current framework.
What’s holding regulators back from allowing infused pizza sales?
New York lawmakers might be OK with restaurants incorporating weed into their pizza and other menu items, but they want to address a few complications first:
- The age factor: New York’s law prohibits anyone 21 and under from purchasing cannabis. So, eateries offering infused products would have to verify customers’ ages and ensure that customers don’t share with anyone underage. But, of course, that brings up whether those under 21 should even be allowed on the premises.
- How much cannabis: New York lawmakers said businesses would have to correctly measure and label the amount of cannabis in a pizza or other food consistently.
The liquor issue: Eateries with cannabis licenses won’t be able to hold liquor licenses either. This factor will likely “weed out” most establishments that want to apply.
What does New York’s restaurant industry think?
New York’s hospitality elite has advocated for on-site cannabis sales for restaurants and nightlife establishments. Why? Adding cannabis sales could generate sky-high profits in an industry with tight margins. So by allowing patrons to add a $5 cannabis extract to their drink or meal, restaurants could easily add significant revenue.
However, choosing between serving cannabis or liquor appears to throw a wrench in an otherwise exciting prospect. “Denying establishments from having both a liquor and cannabis license killed our buzz,” said Max Bookman, an attorney with the NYC Hospitality Alliance. “We’re waiting to see the regulations.”
Also, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, bringing up other issues for the industry. For instance, would an insurance company cover litigation costs from a customer lawsuit claiming a “bad trip” after eating weed-laced pizza?
The bottom line
New York’s marijuana legalization program left the door open for pizzerias and other eateries to incorporate weed and cannabis products into their menu items. Unlike the current CBD and hemp-extract edibles on the market, restaurants wouldn’t have to use pre-packaged items and could include higher levels of THC in their food. The question is whether state lawmakers will consider the topic more and make it a reality.
Medical Mike’s is staying up to date on all cannabis news throughout the Northeast and especially in New York state, so check back for weekly updates on this story and other cannabis developments.
Medical Mikes is a New York Organic Hemp Company that ships to all 50 states.