On April 1, Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, signed a new bill. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) will legalize the purchase and consumption of recreational marijuana in New York. This will make it the 15th state to do so.
The bill intends to encompass New York State’s existing medical cannabis and cannabinoid hemp programs. It aims to create social and economic equity for people who use, grow, or sell the drug.
When this law comes into effect, the state will become one of the nation’s largest markets of legal cannabis. More importantly, New York is one of the few states where legalization is linked to economic and racial equity.
The story was published in Green Entrepreneur on May 25, 2021. To help you catch up with the latest developments, we’ve recapped the main points. And we’ve drawn up an estimated timeline of when retailers will sell cannabis legally in New York.
Immediate Effects of the Law
Starting immediately, people can now possess:
- 24 gms of concentrated forms of cannabis, such as CBD oils, OR
- 3 oz of cannabis for recreational purposes.
New Yorkers can also smoke cannabis in public anywhere smoking is permitted. However, it is not allowed in schools, at work, or inside a car.
Moreover, in New York City, you cannot smoke cannabis (or cigarettes) in parks, beaches, boardwalks, or playgrounds.
Other rules will go into effect in the coming months. Officials are in the process of creating the regulatory framework that will govern various aspects of cannabis use.
Governor Cuomo Launches Website
People need accurate information about the recent legalization of the use of cannabis by adults. The easiest way to do that is to provide it online.
Governor Cuomo launched a website for the Office of Cannabis Management in the state of New York. It will help educate the public about changes in the regulatory structure of cannabis.
The website outlines the comprehensive reforms of this legislation. It has information about licensing, cultivation, production, distribution, sale, and taxation of the drug. It can also help people find medical cannabis practitioners, caregivers, and medical cannabis IDs.
An Estimated Timeline
New York governors say legalizing sales is a step by step process.
According to Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a member of the New York Assembly, legal sales will take time. She says it can take between 18 months and two years to see cannabis in the marketplace. That means people would be able to buy it anywhere between September 2022 and March 2023.
Firstly, the state needs to establish a regulated marketplace. This means that a license will need to be issued allowing people to produce, process, distribute, deliver, or sell cannabis. The Cannabis Control Board will be in charge of issuing these licenses.
Next, the Governor will need to nominate an executive director for the Office of Cannabis Management. The executive director will be in charge of running the agency’s day-to-day operations. However, he will need Senate confirmation.
Furthermore, five members for the Cannabis Control Board will also have to be selected. The Governor shall appoint three candidates, while the New York Senate and Assembly will each appoint one member. Peoples-Stokes hopes the board will be up and running by the end of June 2021.
The executive director can also appoint a chief equity officer. But the nomination must first be approved by four of the five board members.
After the Cannabis Control Board and the Office of Cannabis Management are established, members will create new rules. They will help govern adult-use cannabis, medical cannabis, and hemp in New York state.
How Will Rules be Made?
According to the New York State Administrative Procedures Act, government agencies must give the public a sixty-day notification before adding, amending, or repealing rules.
Additionally, these agencies must provide 60 days before holding a public hearing about the proposed rule. It will give the people enough time to comment on the new regulations.
Moreover, rules are typically made on a rolling basis. This means that regulators propose, finalize, and issue rules one at a time while others are left pending.
The first rule to support cannabis legalization will prioritize license application policies. If regulators make license application rules soon, the Board will begin accepting applications in late 2021 or early 2022. That means licenses would be issued sometime in the spring of 2022.
So if licensed growers start planting at this time, a harvest will be available in the fall of 2022.
If all goes according to plan, licensed retail stores would be able to sell cannabis products legally by the fall of 2022.
The bill also calls for a 13-member advisory board. This board will be in charge of approving the spending of the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund.
After deducting operational costs of state agencies, the fund will get 40% of the revenue from marijuana-related taxes. This is a part of the state’s efforts to pump money into rebuilding communities impacted by previous restrictions.
The Journey of Cannabis Legalization
Under Governor Cuomo’s direction, the Department of Health carried out a multi-agency study in 2018.
The study revealed that there were multiple positive impacts of legalizing adult-use cannabis. It also highlighted that decades of cannabis prohibition hadn’t achieved much for public health and safety. In many cases, it led to unjust arrests and convictions in communities of color.
The first step to change occurred when Governor Cuomo signed new legislation in 2019. It decriminalized penalties on the unlawful possession of marijuana. In fact, many records about marijuana convictions were removed.
Later that same year, the Governor started discussing ways to legalize adult use of cannabis. He aimed to coordinate programs regionally to cut the cross-border movement of cannabis products.
The progress of legalizing the use of cannabis has been slow. A lot has to happen before New Yorkers see cannabis in retail stores.
But like they say, slow and steady wins the race. So hopefully, 2022 will be the year of change and progress in the realm of cannabis legalization.