As New York’s regulators work on the rules that will guide the launch of the state’s adult-use cannabis industry sometime later in 2022, lawmakers are already introducing bills that could reshape it.
Nearly a dozen bills introduced in May cover everything from underage use to a solution for consumers who can’t grow cannabis at home. There are some noteworthy broader bills, too, like one that would create the “adult-use substances authority,” which would oversee cannabis regulators, and another that would bring oral fluid testing to New York’s roadways for testing related to cannabis impairment.
This comes as the initial phase of adult use sales is beginning to come into focus. At its May 5 meeting, the Cannabis Control Board, within the Office of Cannabis Management, awarded 36 conditional adult use cultivator licenses, bringing its total to 88, as Cannabis Wire reported. These farmers will harvest the first crop of cannabis to be sold to New York’s adult use consumers. First sales, Board Chair Tremaine Wright said during the meeting, are expected to take place “later this year.”
Here’s a list of the bills introduced in May:
• S9217, introduced by Rochester’s Sen. Jeremy Cooney, deals with the reality that while New York’s law allows for home cultivation, people who live in public housing (because of federal prohibition) and many renters (because of unwilling landlords) may not be able to exercise that right.
This bill would “authorize the Cannabis Control Board to make regulations allowing for personal cultivation in specified licensed facilities. This 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.”
• S9263, introduced by Sen. James Sanders, Jr, deals with penalties for the possession and use of cannabis by people under the age of 21, with the exception of registered medical cannabis patients.
People who violate the law, if passed, would be “subject to a civil penalty” not exceeding $250, and the possibility of not more than 30 hours of community service.
• S9165, introduced by Sen. Luis Sepúlveda, who represents parts of the Bronx, introduced a bill aimed at clarifying some aspects of the cannabis law as they relate to hemp-derived THC products. For example, “THC” would be defined as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, delta-8 THC, delta-10 THC, and the “optical isomer” of such substances.
As of right now, the sale of delta-8 and delta-10 THC products remain “strictly prohibited” in New York, as Cannabis Wire has reported. The Office of Cannabis Management sent out a letter to cannabinoid hemp license holders in early May, which Cannabis Wire obtained.
“To clarify any confusion surrounding these products, we are advising you that the sale of any cannabinoid hemp products which contain Delta-8 THC or Delta-10 THC created through isomerization, are strictly prohibited in the Cannabinoid Hemp Program,” reads the letter, sent by OCM. “At no time has the sale of these products been authorized in the Cannabinoid Hemp Program as these products contain intoxicating qualities which are more appropriately regulated by the Adult-Use or Medical Cannabis Programs.”
This bill pushes back. In the sponsor memo for the bill, Sepúlveda writes: “There is no justification as to why licensed and regulated businesses should not be allowed to distribute or sell hemp-derived cannabinoid products in a safe manner. This bill would protect the free market of the hemp industry and ensure that the entirety of the hemp plant is available in the free market, and that a monopoly of cannabinoid hemp products does not arise within marijuana dispensaries.”
• S9224, introduced by Sen. John Mannion, would implement “cannabis field sobriety oral fluids tests.”
This form of testing is not widely used across the United States. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation released Marijuana-Impaired Driving: A Report to Congress, which concluded in a request that states collect more and better data on cannabis-impaired drivers, as well as a call for more research to “enable development of an impairment standard for driving under the influence of marijuana.” There is currently no such national standard.
“The poor correlation of THC level in the blood or oral fluid with impairment precludes using THC blood or oral fluid levels as an indicator of driver impairment,” the report concludes, adding that this is why cannabis impairment testing isn’t analogous to alcohol impairment, as Cannabis Wire reported. “The use of THC level cannot serve this same role for marijuana-impaired driving.”
Last November, Congress passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which contains language aimed at curbing impaired driving, including cannabis-impaired driving. Specifically, the bill calls for a report that “identifies, and contains recommendations for addressing, Federal statutory and regulatory barriers to — (A) the conduct of scientific research on marijuana-impaired driving; and (B) the establishment of a national clearinghouse for purposes of facilitating research on marijuana-impaired driving.”
• S9218, also introduced by Cooney, would allow for “reciprocity agreements with other states for medical cannabis programs” so that patients who are registered in other states can access products when they visit New York. The bill would also direct the Cannabis Control Board to create regulations for the “approval of pre-roll products in the medical cannabis program.”
A handful of bills have also come out of the Rules Committee, of which Speaker Carl Heastie is chair.
• A10408 would establish the “tobacco, nicotine and vaping law,” which would create some new provisions relating to these products. Specifically, it would establish the “adult-use substances authority which shall have authority over the state liquor authority, cannabis control board and the tobacco, nicotine and vaping authority.” It would also create the “tobacco and vapor product use prevention and control program and the electronic cigarette and vaping prevention, awareness and control program,” both aimed at public education.
• A10246 would require the state comptroller, the attorney general and “independent certified public accountants” to conduct an annual audit of the Office of Cannabis Management.
• A10369 would require that licensed entities that allow for on-site consumption of cannabis and alcohol both have “opioid antagonists to be administered to patrons, staff or individuals on premises.”
• A10366 is a bill that, among other things, aims to expand the Cannabis Control Board from five to nine. It would give the Senate and Assembly majority leaders each one additional appointment, and it would allow the minority leaders each one appointment.
• A10258 addresses the penalties for the underage use of cannabis. Violators would be subject to a civil penalty of no more than $50. Additionally, if passed, the Office of Cannabis Management shall “contact the parents and/or guardians of such person and inform them of the person’s violations,” and “such person and the parents and/or guardian of such person shall be required to attend a cannabis diversion program established by the Office of Cannabis Management to assess for substance use disorders.”