A New York senator filed a bill on Thursday that would legalize what would essentially be licensed community marijuana gardens for people who aren’t able to cultivate cannabis at their own homes.
The rules for home grow under New York’s adult-use marijuana law are still being developed, but Sen. Jeremy Cooney (D) is looking ahead and aiming to address a likely challenge that will emerge for renters or people living in urban areas.
Under the proposal, the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) would be empowered to enact regulations permitting the licensing of a new business category called “personal cultivation facilities,” where people could grow cannabis for themselves outside of their residence.
The bill “will ensure individuals who do not have a residence that is suitable for personal cultivation, such as most renters and individuals living in urban communities, still have the opportunity to utilize personal cultivation in a safe and controlled setting,” a justification memo attached to the legislation states.
As it stands, adults 21 and older will be able to start growing up to six plants, only three of which could be mature, starting 18 months after the first adult-use retailers launch, which is expected to happen later this year.
Regulators also approved revised rules last month permitting medical cannabis patients to grow their own marijuana. Those proposed regulations are under a public comment period.
Meanwhile, the mayor of New York City has signaled his interest in having licensed marijuana grows on the rooftops of public housing buildings. But recognizing the potential federal conflict, he said last month that the administration intends to seek a “waiver” to permit such activity.
In any case, with the state legislative session set to end on June 2, there’s little time left to pass the new personal cultivation facility bill or any other cannabis reform proposals that Cooney and others have introduced in recent months.
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For example, the senator also filed a bill last month that’s meant to encourage banks to work with state-legal marijuana businesses by allowing regulators to disclose certain information about cannabis licensees to financial institutions.
Separately, Cooney and other New York lawmakers also sought to provide tax breaks for the forthcoming marijuana market, approving a budget proposal that Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed last month that would do just that.
Cooney filed a standalone bill in December seeking a similar carve-out for the state’s burgeoning cannabis industry, and Assemblymember Donna Lupardo (D) followed suit in her chamber.
Meanwhile, another senator filed a bill in February that would promote recycling in the marijuana industry once retail sales officially launch.
Sen. Michelle Hinchey (D) is sponsoring that legislation, which would require cannabis shops to apply a $1 deposit for any marijuana products sold in single-use plastic containers and also reimburse consumers for that fee if they return the container.
The senator is also behind a separate bill filed last year that would prioritize hemp-based packaging over synthetic plastics for marijuana products.
The recycling bill is identical to an Assembly version filed by Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy (D) last year.
Meanwhile, regulators have been hard at work getting the industry ready for the launch of retail sales this year.
Earlier this month, the CCB approved a second batch of applications for recreational marijuana cultivators, raising the total to 88 accepted licensees.
Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed a bill from Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D) and Hinchey to create conditional licenses in February. The intent is to allow existing hemp operators to get a head start on growing marijuana to meet demand for the forthcoming industry.
Regulators also advanced a rule in March to make it so people with prior marijuana convictions, or whose family members have been harmed by criminalization, will get the first round of adult-use marijuana retailer licenses—ahead of existing medical cannabis businesses. A recent poll found that most New Yorkers voters are against that proposal.
Hochul has repeatedly emphasized her interest in efficiently implementing the legalization law.
The governor released a State of the State book in January that called for the creation of a $200 million public-private fund to specifically help promote social equity in the state’s burgeoning marijuana market.
That proposal was also cited in the governor’s executive budget, which was released in January. The budget also estimated that New York stands to generate more than $1.25 billion in marijuana tax revenue over the next six years.
Hochul said that while cannabis business licenses have yet to be approved since legalization was signed into law last year, the market stands to generate billions of dollars, and it’s important to “create opportunities for all New Yorkers, particularly those from historically marginalized communities.”
Enacting legislation that expedites licensing could help the state reduce the number of businesses that are effectively using the legal “gifting” provision of the state’s marijuana law to give away cannabis for “free” if a non-marijuana-related purchase is made.
New York regulators recently issued warnings to more than two dozen businesses that they allege are either illegally selling marijuana without a license or exploiting the “gifting” component.
Separately, the state Department of Labor separately announced in recent guidance that New York employers are no longer allowed to drug test most workers for marijuana.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.