New York marijuana regulators on Thursday announced that they will be officially begin accepting applications for the state’s first adult-use retailer licenses, reserved for people impacted by the drug war, starting on August 25.
This comes about a month after the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) approved the initial conditional adult-use licensing rules and accepted a mockup of the application form.
In order to qualify for a conditional adult-use marijuana retail license, applicants must have faced a conviction for a cannabis-related offense prior to the enactment of legalization in the state, or have a direct relative with such a conviction, and they must also have experience operating a qualifying business.
Did you hear? Cannabis in NY is here and in just 2 weeks, you will have the chance to apply for your own cannabis adult-use retail dispensary license, CAURD.
— NYS Office of Cannabis Management (@nys_cannabis) August 11, 2022
The definition of a qualifying “justice-involved” individual was also expanded to include people who were arrested for marijuana but convicted for a lesser offense, which advocates view as a positive step that will broader the applicant pool.
The application will be available online at the New York State Business Express site. Prospective applicants are being encouraged to begin compiling the required documents before the portal opens this month. The application period for this license type will be open for just a month, closing on September 26.
“Today’s announcement brings us to the precipice of legal, licensed cannabis sales in New York State,” CCB Chair Tremaine Wright said in a press release. “With the Seeding Opportunity Initiative, New York has affirmed our commitment to making sure the first sales are conducted by those harmed by prohibition.”
“We’re writing a new playbook for what an equitable launch of a cannabis industry looks like, and hope future states follow our lead,” she said.
This development builds on CCB’s approvals of numerous conditional cultivator applications, which are being granted to existing hemp businesses in the state. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed a bill to create the conditional cultivation licenses in February.
“In just two weeks my team will start accepting applications for adult-use retail cannabis dispensaries,” Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) Executive Director Chris Alexander said. “This is a monumental step in establishing the most equitable, diverse, and accessible cannabis industry in the nation.”
“We’ve worked to make this application as simple as possible for all interested applicants, and I cannot emphasize it enough that you do not need any legal expertise to fill this application out,” he said.
The OCM official said last month that the office diligently reviewed and responded to public comments on the proposed rules for conditional retailers, but there’s still been some frustration among stakeholders who feel that the input was not thoughtfully incorporated.
For what it’s worth, a recent poll found that most New Yorkers voters are against that proposal to prioritize retail licenses for justice-involved people.
Separately, OCM also recently publicized dozens of cease and desist letters that they have sent to businesses accused of illegally selling marijuana as the state prepares to launch its adult-use market.
But there’s been skepticism about the accuracy of the office’s enforcement targets. Some businesses that were named as operating illicit marijuana shops say they never received the notice; others, including one event and catering business, say that were wrongfully targeted, denying that they’ve been involved in cannabis sales.
As it stands, adults 21 and older can possess and publicly consume cannabis, as well as gift marijuana to other adults as long as they aren’t being compensated.
In June, CCB also approved a series of proposed rules for marijuana packaging, labeling, advertising and testing requirements.
During April’s CCB meeting, regulators also approved revised regulations to allow medical marijuana patients to grow their own plants for personal use following a public comment period on initial rules that were proposed last year.
In general, the rule would allow registered patients and caregivers to grow up to six plants, only three of which could be mature. They could possess up to five pounds of cannabis derived from those plants, which is consistent with the state’s adult-use legalization law.
Meanwhile, New York lawmakers recently sent a budget proposal to the governor’s desk that includes provisions to let marijuana businesses take state tax deductions that are available to other industries despite an ongoing federal ban on cannabis. That was signed into law.
Sen. Jeremy Cooney (D) filed a standalone bill in December seeking a similar carve-out for the state’s burgeoning cannabis market. Assemblymember Donna Lupardo (D) followed suit in her chamber. Cooney also filed a bill in May to allow regulators to disclose certain information about cannabis licensees to financial institutions to promote marijuana banking.
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.”
OCM has also been putting out PSAs to promote public education about the marijuana policy change, including a first-of-its-kind taxpayer-funded marijuana ad that aired in most of New York during an NBA Finals game last month. The PSA boldly addressed the racially discriminatory harms of cannabis criminalization and highlighted steps that state regulators are taking to right the wrongs of prohibition.
CCB also wants the opportunity to showcase its marijuana PSA campaign on the social media app TikTok, but it was told by the company previously that it could not use the platform because of its existing ban on the use of the word “cannabis.” The department recently sent a letter to TikTok, requesting a policy change for government marijuana-related ads that concern public education.
Here are some other ways that New York lawmakers and regulators are working to promote drug policy reform as the state prepares to implement retail marijuana sales:
Last month, Hochul announced that the state had awarded $5 million in funding to community colleges to support the development and improvement of courses and programs specifically meant to help people secure jobs in the marijuana industry.
The New York Senate approved a bill in June that would require public health insurance programs to cover medical marijuana expenses and clarify that private insurers are allowed to do the same.
Both chambers of the state legislature have passed a measure to encourage businesses to use hemp materials for packaging, construction and other industrial purposes.
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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. Even prior to the enactment of legalization, New York City officials had established a local ban on pre-employment drug testing for cannabis.
A recent legal directive from the New York City Law Department (NYCLD) has put police and firefighter drug testing policy in the spotlight after a document that was leaked from the New York Police Department (NYPD) signaled that officers would no longer be subject to pre-employment, random or scheduled screening for cannabis because of the legal analysis.
A firefighters union claimed credit for the new directive, saying that it was responsive to inquires that it made to the city.
Separately, the mayor of New York City says he’s looking into the idea of authorizing marijuana to be grown in greenhouses on the rooftops of public housing buildings—an ambitious proposal that’s unlikely to sit well with the federal government, which provides funding to support the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA).
A New York senator filed a bill in May that would legalize what would essentially be licensed community marijuana gardens for people who aren’t able to cultivate cannabis at their own homes.
Also that month, a New York Assembly committee advanced a bill to establish a statewide safe consumption site program, allowing regulators to authorize facilities where people could use currently illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment.
Meanwhile, a New York lawmaker introduced a bill last year that would require the state to establish an institute to research the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
Another state legislator filed legislation in December to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for medical purposes and establish facilities where the psychedelic could be grown and administered to patients.