The newly inaugurated governor of New York is committed to expediently filling regulatory positions to implement marijuana legalization in the state, her office says.
Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), who replaced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) this week after he resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal, was supportive of the legislature’s passage of the adult-use legalization bill this year. While her predecessor faced criticism as negotiations with lawmakers on potential appointments stalled, the new governor is now talking the helm and discussing how to move the process forward with leaders.
Prioritizing the appointment of members of the Cannabis Control Board, as well as an executive director for the new Office of Cannabis Management will bring the state one step closer to setting up regulations and launching the retail market. As it stands, adults 21 and older can possess up to three ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of concentrates—and they can also smoke marijuana in public anywhere tobacco can be smoked—but there aren’t any shops open for business yet.
“Nominating and confirming individuals with diverse experiences and subject matter expertise, who are representative of communities from across the state, to the Cannabis Control Board is a priority for Gov. Hochul,” spokesperson Jordan Bennett told The New York Post. “We look forward to working with the legislature to keep this process moving forward.”
The Senate would have to confirm any appointments the governor makes.
“It’s about time,” Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, told Marijuana Moment. “New Yorkers have been clear that cannabis is a critical criminal justice issue that the administration should be prioritizing. And they’ve also been clear that they want to see the communities that have been most impacted governing the new market and the larger regulatory institution.”
“It makes sense, since women were at the forefront of leading this reform, that the first woman governor would be the one to get it done,” she said, referring to the fact that top lawmakers who sponsored the legalization legislation—and some of the most prominent activists who successfully pushed to enact it—are women.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) have also had conversations with the governor about her priorities for cannabis implementation in recent days. The speaker told The Post that Hochul “did say [confirming regulators] was something that she wanted us all to concentrate on—and we agreed.”
That’s welcome news for advocates who had grown frustrated with Cuomo for slow-walking the appointments. There were serious disagreements between the former administration and lawmakers about who to appoint, but they’re encouraged by the new governor’s remarks that signal she will be proactive in getting the regulatory infrastructure set up in a timely manner.
Adding pressure to get the market up and running is the fact that regulators in neighboring New Jersey recently released rules for its adult-use marijuana program, which is being implemented after voters approved a legalization referendum last year.
When it comes to Hochul’s overall stance on cannabis policy, she was a consistent advocate for the prior administration’s legalization plan and said the reform was “long overdue” for New York. She also defended Cuomo’s proposal in the face of criticism of various provisions from some advocates, but she told Marijuana Moment in January that there was room for amendments, many of which were made to address activists’ concerns.
— Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) January 7, 2021
While serving as lieutenant governor, Hochul said in an interview with Cheddar that she wants to ensure that the emerging industry is equitable and that “communities of color will understand exactly what’s involved in applying for these licenses as soon as they’re available.”
After Cuomo signed legalization into law in March, the official said, “not only will this help correct an unjust system that targets marginalized communities, it will create jobs & invest in those who have been historically underserved.”
FINALLY! Adult-use cannabis is legalized in New York.
Not only will this help correct an unjust system that targets marginalized communities, it will create jobs & invest in those who have been historically underserved.
We are building back better — and greener 🌿— in NY.
— Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) March 31, 2021
Last month, a New York senator filed a bill to create a provisional marijuana licensing category so that farmers could begin cultivating and selling cannabis ahead of the formal rollout of the adult-use program. The bill has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee.
The state comptroller recently projected that New York stands to eventually generate $245 million in annual marijuana revenue.
For the first year of cannabis sales, the state is expected to see just $20 million in tax and fee collections. That will be part of an estimated $26.7 billion in new revenues that New York is expected to generate in fiscal year 2021-2022 under a budget that the legislature passed in April.
“Cannabis legalization will create more than 60,000 new jobs, spurring $3.5 billion in economic activity and generating an estimated $300 million in tax revenue when fully implemented,” the former governor’s office said in January.
Meanwhile, a New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to establish an institute to research the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.