The New York Senate now has a committee focused exclusively on marijuana, the office of the newly appointed chairman announced on Thursday’s 4/20 holiday.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) named Sen. Jeremy Cooney the chair of the Senate Cannabis Subcommittee, which will “provide an outlet for entrepreneurs, advocates, industry and citizens with an interest in the new marketplace,” according to a press release.
The standalone subcommittee will also work closely with the state Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) that is charged with overseeing the nascent adult-use marijuana industry.
“I am pleased to see the adult-use recreational cannabis market begin to come online in New York, but there is much more to be done,” Cooney said. “From the beginning, the state legislature committed to doing the hard work of building the most equitable cannabis marketplace in the nation. I fully believe we can meet that goal.”
Grateful to take on this new leadership role during a critical time for the adult-use and medical cannabis markets in New York. Thank you @AndreaSCousins for your faith in me, and our work to build an equitable, thriving cannabis marketplace for all. #cannabis pic.twitter.com/lRZ4tKlYq3
— Senator Jeremy Cooney (@SenatorCooney) April 20, 2023
“I am grateful to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for her confidence in me, and I am eager to get to work with my colleagues serving on the new subcommittee to hear ideas from New Yorkers on how we can strengthen our cannabis marketplace,” he said.
In recent years, the senator has introduced numerous pieces of cannabis legislation, largely focusing on equity issues.
For example, he filed a bill in 2021 to extend social equity benefits under the state’s marijuana law to gay, lesbian and bisexual people. He sponsored another measure to legalize what would essentially be licensed community marijuana gardens for people who aren’t able to cultivate cannabis at their own homes. And he’s also worked to advance proposals to promote access to banking services for state-legal marijuana businesses.
“As a consistent champion throughout New York’s legalization journey, Senator Cooney has fought hard to ensure everyone is included in this burgeoning adult-use market,” the Senate majority leader said. “Drawing from his impressive work on safe-use regulation, restorative licensing practices, and economic development policies, I am confident that Senator Cooney will be an effective Chair and strong voice in this ongoing process.”
The standalone subcommittee has its work cut out for it, as regulators have faced criticism over the slow rollout of New York’s adult-use market, which currently has just a handful of operational licensed retailers and a multitude of unlicensed businesses selling cannabis.
Ahead of the 4/20 holiday, the governor of New York announced on Tuesday that the state is launching a public education campaign to encourage adults to buy their marijuana from licensed shops to ensure that products are safe and that revenue is used to advance equity and reinvestment goals.
Again, however, licensed dispensaries are limited in the state, as lawmakers and regulators are prioritizing first standing up businesses run by people who’ve been disproportionately impacted by prohibition.
New York regulators did announce last month that they are doubling the number of conditional adult-use marijuana licenses that can be approved, from 150 to 300, after receiving feedback from certain applicants that they would be able to more expeditiously open storefronts without additional support through a state program designed to help eligible entities create physical locations.
Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) also recently introduced legislation to increase enforcement authority to crack down on illicit marijuana retailers as the state struggles to stand up the regulated adult-use market.
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The governor visited one of the handful of currently operating cannabis retailers in February, though she didn’t buy anything, even as she signaled openness to trying marijuana in the future.
In December, Hochul separately unveiled a marijuana business and product verification tool, with plans to post a QR code on licensed cannabis retailers and a universal symbol label for authorized cannabis products.
She also signed a bill in late November aimed at expanding the state’s hemp market by promoting collaborative partnerships to identify more opportunities to utilize the crop and its derivatives for packaging, construction and other purposes.
Meanwhile, New York lawmakers approved a bill last month that would require public health insurance providers in the state to include medical marijuana as a covered prescription drug and authorize private insurers to do the same.
Far more New Yorkers believe that consuming alcohol is a serious public health problem compared to the minority who feel the same about marijuana, according to a recent survey conducted by state officials.
There’s also majority support for the state’s adult-use cannabis law, and a plurality of New Yorkers additionally favor having marijuana retailers open up in their communities.
Additionally, New York lawmakers recently filed legislation for this year’s session to legalize certain psychedelics like psilocybin and ibogaine for adults 21 and older. Separate legislation would also broadly decriminalize drug possession.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.