New York lawmakers in both chambers have passed a bill that will give the state’s hemp growers temporary cannabis business licenses as regulators work to craft the rules to stand up the forthcoming adult use cannabis industry.
The legislation, Senate Bill S8084A, sponsored by Sen. Michelle Hinchey, which would specifically allow hemp farmers to cultivate, process, and distribute cannabis flower, now awaits Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature. The Assembly version was sponsored by Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who, along with Sen. Liz Krueger, pushed adult use legalization over the finish line.
New York hemp growers have been beaten up by a combination of factors, including a glut that sent prices crashing, as Cannabis Wire has reported. Hinchey said a statement that she hopes the legislation will help lift up some of these hemp farmers.
“Our existing hemp growers, who have been some of the hardest hit by market fluctuations, already have the knowledge base to meet this need, and I’m proud to sponsor legislation to help them obtain conditional licenses, which will allow New York to implement its cannabis program faster,” Hinchey said.
Hinchey that the legislation should “advance the critical social equity goals” laid out in the adult use law by “establishing mentorship programs that bring more BIPOC growers into the fold to strengthen diversity in agriculture and deliver opportunities for all who want to be part of this exciting space.”
Temporary license holders will have to obtain adult use business licenses once those are available, which is expected in 2023.
“This bill is necessary to allow for a timely establishment of the adult-use cannabis market by allowing for the temporary conditional cultivation and processing of adult-use cannabis as soon as is feasible,” the bill text reads. “This bill will be particularly helpful in providing social equity retail dispensary licensees with products on day-one of retail sales.”
Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Marihuana Regulation & Taxation Act into law last March. Since then, regulators have worked to expand the state’s medical cannabis program, as well as the state’s cannabinoid hemp program. There are currently about 120,000 registered patients, and as of January, patients can receive certifications from their medical provider for any condition and qualify to participate in the program.
During the statewide “Cannabis Conversation” outreach events that cannabis regulators have hosted since the start of the year, Tremaine Wright, chair of the Cannabis Control Board, within the Office of Cannabis Management, has spoken about the timing of the launch of the adult use market and how it will play into the medical program.
“We know that the largest number of consumers are going to be recreation and we are trying to time licenses,” Wright said during an event focused on the Central region of the state.
“The MRTA actually tells us to prioritize the equity applicants. And so we’ll be doing our best to make sure that they get priority. And it is also very clear in the MRTA that we are to support and help build our small businesses and make sure that they have a space here,” Wright said.
Wright also said during a New York City-focused outreach event that regulators have not set a limit on licenses.
“We’re not setting a specific limit. We’re building this market based on our supply and demand. We really want to do what this market can hold, and what’s going to keep it stable. We are hoping that we are delivering the right types of licenses at the right time and that will be dictated to us by the market trends,” Wright said.
Also on Wednesday, the Office of Cannabis Management announced new proposed rules in an effort to make the state’s existing medical cannabis program more efficient, and more environmentally friendly.
The proposed rules would allow registered organizations, or the 10 companies that are licensed to operate in the medical program, to “accept packaging for reuse and modifying packaging and labeling requirements to support it, reducing waste created by the industry.” The rules would also establish additional regulations around packing and labeling to curb appeal to minors.
It also appears that regulators are already thinking about future innovations, because they’re proposing the removal of limits on “naming conventions for products, paving the way for products to include names of various cannabis strains.”
Two proposed rules are aimed at streamlining operations. One would allow registered organizations’ pharmacists to work remotely, and another would replace the “overburdensome requirement” that registered organizations have 24 hour video surveillance, and instead allow “motion-activated recording” after businesses close.
The regulations will be up for consideration at Thursday’s Cannabis Control Board meeting and, if approved, will be subject to a 60-day public comment window.
OCM is also asking for the Cannabis Control Board to enter into a contract with Shaleen Title, a former cannabis regulator in Massachusetts, who, as regulators noted, has “worked on writing, passing, and implementing equitable cannabis laws for over 20 years.” Title recently launched the Parabola Center for Law and Policy, “a nonpartisan think tank of legal professionals and drug policy experts coming together to protect people, not corporations.”