New York Cannabis Updates: New York legalized adult recreational marijuana over a year ago, but it’s still not an absolute reality. The state moved slowly at first, eventually establishing the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) and Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) to oversee industry rules. However, New York’s adult-use program gained significant momentum over the past few months, with hundreds of farms growing their first legal harvest, the Seeding Opportunity Initiative well underway, and dispensary license regulations almost hammered out.
According to the latest estimates, initial retail sales could kick-off before the end of the year. Let’s look at the latest developments on New York’s path to legal marijuana sales, focusing on social equity and consumer protection.
New York’s Legalization Progress since March 2022
Conditional Adult-Use Cultivator Licenses
In March, New York’s Gov. Kathy Hochul signed Senate Bill S8084A into law, permitting existing hemp growers and processors to apply for Conditional Adult-Use Cultivator and Conditional Adult-Use Processor licenses. These crops will be New York’s sole source of cannabis in state-approved retail dispensaries.
Conditional license holders, whose licenses expire in 2024, can begin growing cannabis outdoors or in a greenhouse with up to 20 artificial lights immediately. The state granted the first 52 licenses in April, meaning the first harvests could be ready for sale by fall. Over the last two months, the OCM granted nearly 100 more approvals. Additionally, the Cannabis Control Board recently announced 16 additional cultivator applications, raising the total to 162.
Retail Dispensary Regulations
Cultivator and processor licenses enable approved farms to grow marijuana, but they still need a place to sell it. In answer to that issue, New York will soon license the first batch of applicants with Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary Licenses.
Beyond benefiting from the surge of initial customer traffic, the first batch of licensed businesses will also be eligible for financial assistance to lease and build retail space and purchase software and furniture.
The state has not yet issued retail licenses, meaning there is no regulated marketplace for adult-use cannabis sales yet. However, certified patients can continue accessing cannabis through the medical cannabis program. The state could issue the first retail licenses this summer.
Social Equity and New York’s Seeding Opportunity Initiative
The CCB and OCM created a social and economic equity program called the Seeding Opportunity Initiative—a first in the country—to encourage small businesses and individuals from communities most impacted by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis laws to participate in the new industry. The OCM said the goal is to put New York farmers and equity entrepreneurs rather than big, out-of-state businesses at the forefront of the state’s market.
The CCB has already advanced two components of the Seeding Opportunity Initiative:
- Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary Licenses will be available only to “justice-involved” applicants or those with a family member who has a cannabis-related offense. To qualify and apply, applicants must:
- Own at least 10% of a business that was profitable for at least two years
- Have a marijuana conviction while living in New York—but not an arrest—before March 31, 2021
- Have at least a 51% stake in the cannabis business they’re looking to start
- Submit a business plan, their fingerprints, and a $2,000 non-refundable fee
The CCB expects to start issuing licenses this summer.
- Adult-Use Conditional Cultivator Licenses prioritize hemp farmers with similar convictions seeking to grow cannabis.
The CCB received more than 200 applications from New York’s hemp farmers. This farm-to-store initiative will make cannabis sales possible before the end of 2022.
Cannabis Control Board’s June 2022 meeting
At the most recent CCB meeting on June 1, regulators took another step toward launching New York’s adult-use retail market. In addition to approving more cultivator licenses, the board approved a series of proposed rules for the state’s packaging, labeling, advertising, and testing requirements to help ensure public safety and prevent underage use.
Packaging-approved measures include:
- Packages can feature only one brand name, with no pictures or graphics that aren’t required.
- Printing a universal symbol (designating legal marijuana products) on the packaging.
- Artwork can’t appeal to underage consumers, and packaging must be child-resistant and tamper-evident.
Sustainable practices requirements include:
- Licensees must submit an environmental sustainability program for cannabis product packaging as part of the application process.
Packages can’t be single-use plastic unless at least 25% comes from post-consumer recycled content.
Labels must contain details about:
- Cannabinoid content and concentration
- Serving size for edible products
- Item weight and lot number
- Any solvents used to produce the product
Scannable barcodes or QR codes that show the certification of analysis (COA)
Advertising and marketing rules
The CCB also approved rules for marijuana advertising, including:
- Language stipulating use for adults 21 and older
- A rotating series of warnings similar to cigarettes
No promotion of “price, price reductions, or any other discount, customer loyalty program, or coupon” or using the word “organic”
The bottom line
Although initially slow-moving, adult-use New York cannabis updates program has gained significant momentum since March. The CCB issued more than 160 cultivator licenses to ensure an ample supply for retail sales this fall. Additionally, the state has established dispensary, packaging and product testing rules, signaling legal New York cannabis is closer to reality than ever before.
Medical Mike’s is keeping up with all New York cannabis updates in the Northeast states, so check weekly for updates on New York’s cannabis sales and regulations.