In April 2021, New Yorkers celebrated as the state became the 17th in the nation to legalize recreational cannabis. But six months later, not much has changed. What’s the hold up with legalization in NY?
You may have seen headlines decrying missed deadlines, empty appointments, and a stalled legalization process. But things are finally moving forward. On October 5, the newly appointed Cannabis Control Board got together for their first public meeting. So, what does that mean for you as a consumer?
Here are the latest updates on marijuana legalization in New York.
Where Can I Buy Cannabis Legally in New York?
While New Yorkers can possess up to three ounces of flower or 24 grams of concentrates (if over 21), they still can’t legally buy, grow, or sell the plant. Retail sales won’t start until late 2022 at the earliest.
But there is an option for New Yorkers who don’t mind a drive. Located along the St. Lawrence River and Canadian border, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe has nearly a dozen open dispensaries selling recreational THC products, including pre-rolls, gummies, edibles, and tinctures. And they’re not the only tribe welcoming cannabis. The Shinnecock Indian Nation is also building a medical marijuana cultivation facility, dispensary, and wellness center, with medical sales projected to start within the year.
Is Adult Use Marijuana Implementation Delayed in New York?
The process of New York cannabis legalization didn’t get the running start many people were hoping for. Shortly after former Governor Andrew Cuomo passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), he became embroiled in a number of scandals. During his remaining time in office, Cuomo failed to make any appointments to the newly established Cannabis Control Board (CCB). And with no one spearheading the charge, legalization hit a roadblock.
Fortunately, New York’s new Governor, Kathy Hochel, has made adult-use cannabis implementation a priority. Since taking office in August, Kathy’s first action was to name the Chair and the Executive Director of the CCB, followed by four board members. The meeting on October 5 was the first time they got together in public.
New York’s First Cannabis Control Board Meeting
During its first meeting, New York’s CCB worked hard to make up for lost time – and that’s excellent news. The first meeting focused on adding staff to the office, confirming board member appointments, and making immediate changes to the medical marijuana program. But New Yorkers still won’t be able to purchase cannabis products anytime soon: The Board didn’t touch on the license application process for consumption lounges, dispensaries, or the timeline for home growing.
What is the Cannabis Control Board?
The Cannabis Control Board (CCB) is the new governing body for cannabis in the State of New York, which also oversees the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). Tremaine Wright chairs the Board, and Chris Alexander serves as the Executive Director. Board members include Jessica Garcia, Adam Perry, Jen Metzger, and Reuben McDaniel III.
What does the Cannabis Control Board Do?
The CCB is responsible for creating the rules and regulations for the New York cannabis market. Until now, legalization has stalled because there was no application process or licensing criteria for businesses looking to enter the market (because there was no board to create them.)
The CCB will:
- Establish a process for license applications
- Create regulations for license applications
- Approve or deny business licenses
- Oversee the cultivation, production, distribution, sale, and taxation of cannabis and hemp
- Develop rules for home growing
The Board is also responsible for creating rules and regulations around labels and packaging requirements for hemp and Delta 8 THC products.
How Legalization Affects New Yorkers Today
Immediately: Expanding New York’s Medical Marijuana Access
The biggest focus of the October meeting was the changes to the state’s medical marijuana program. Starting immediately, medical patients can purchase marijuana flower in up to a 60-day supply, rather than pre-ground flower in a 30-day supply.
Additionally, the OCM expanded the number of providers able to write medical marijuana prescriptions from doctors only to any practitioner licensed to prescribe a controlled substance, including dentists, podiatrists, and midwives. They also waived the $50 patient and caregiver application fee.
Learn more about what New Yorker’s can do RIGHT NOW, like smoking cannabis outdoors in public areas.
Soon: Home Growing in New York
Medical home growers are anxiously waiting for the CCB to create policies around home grow practices. By law, the CCB should have written these policies no later than six months after the MRTA passed, but they missed the deadline.
Recreational home growers will have to wait a little longer. New Yorkers will be able to grow up to 12 plants per household, but not until after the start of retail sales. The OCM must develop regulations for home growing no later than 18 months after retail sales start.
Soon: Dispensaries in New York
The Board had no news for New York business owners and consumers anxiously awaiting guidance on legal marijuana dispensaries. Its next step is to create an application process for people seeking licenses, along with an outline for managing product sales. We don’t yet know what cannabis products New York will allow or in what capacity, but we should in the coming weeks.
Soon: Growing and Processing in New York
No news yet on licenses for New York nurseries, cultivation centers, processors, or distributors. The Board’s next step is to create the application process and the business criteria for applicants to meet. Hopefully we’ll know more at the next meeting.
Soon: Cannabis Consumption Lounges in New York
One of the highlighted parts of the MRTA bill was the creation of specific consumption lounge licenses, where New Yorkers can go to consume marijuana. The CCB didn’t touch on the timeline for opening consumption lounges nor the application process, but we can expect that to take priority at one of the upcoming meetings.
Soon: Delivery Services in New York
Like the consumption lounges, marijuana delivery service licenses were an important part of the MRTA. But like the other licenses, the Board is currently working on developing the application process and criteria.
What’s Next for Cannabis in New York?
The Board is making up for six months of lost time, and they have their work cut out for them. The organization hasn't scheduled its next meeting yet, but the CCP intends to move quickly on creating rules for applications, businesses, and packaging for cannabis and hemp.
While the CCB works out the details, New York’s various municipalities have until the end of 2021 to decide if they want to opt-out of having dispensaries. However, they cannot opt-out of having production businesses, nor out of legalization as a whole.
How is New York Different from Other Legal States?
New York’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act is unique. Unlike other states with legal adult-use cannabis, New York emphasized creating safe space for cannabis consumption, prioritizing small businesses over multi-state operators, social equity, and the right to grow at home. Now, all eyes are on the CCB to ensure they stick with their pledge to award 50% of licenses to social and economic equity applicants once the regulations are complete.
While New Yorkers have to wait a bit longer to start purchasing cannabis products over the counter, these crucial changes to the medical marijuana program will allow thousands more people to access the healing powers of the plant. We at Medical Mike’s are excited to finally see legalization moving forward again, so every New Yorker can benefit.