On Thursday, the Cannabis Control Board, within the Office of Cannabis Management, voted to approve the final regulations and application for Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses. These regulations will go into effect on August 3, after which the application window can open.
The CAURD licenses represent one piece of the state’s effort to bring equity to the adult use cannabis supply chain, regulators said on Thursday.
“The idea is that we were going to drive the first small cohort of retail dispensaries through as social equity entrepreneurs and build on those small business experienced individuals in launching this industry here in New York,” Axel Bernabe, OCM chief of staff, said during the meeting.
The CAURD regulations were subject to a 60-day public comment period during which roughly 600 comments came in. However, no revisions were released for further public comment between the draft proposal and the final one presented and voted on Thursday.
“We are thankful for the feedback. All of it was considered before these final regulations are being brought to the board today for ultimate approval,” Bernabe said, adding that an “assessment” of the public comments will be released in “the coming days.”
Multiple comments, regulators said, were simple requests for clarification. Board member Jen Metzger said that a Frequently Asked Questions section of the OCM site was coming.
In March, cannabis regulators approved a proposal to allow New Yorkers who have a cannabis conviction record, or have a parent or guardian with one, and also have business experience, to be the first to apply for adult-use retail licenses. The people awarded CAURD licenses will also receive significant support through the state’s $200 million New York Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund, which will be used to provide CAURD licensees with turnkey cannabis retail shops.
On Thursday, Bernabe said that the definition of “justice involved” includes people who were arrested for a cannabis offense, but convicted of a lesser offense.
The Board also voted to approve draft regulations for automatic medical cannabis patient registration, now subject to a 45-day public comment period.
OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander gave an update about other cannabis regulatory efforts, including the “Get Ready, Get Set” workshops aimed at educating and preparing eligible New Yorkers for the CAURD applications.
Damian Fagon, OCM’s first Chief Equity Officer, said that he and colleagues aimed to make the online application easy to navigate.
“One essential feature of an equitable cannabis industry is accessibility. CAURD applicants will be pleased to find here an application that is fully online, straightforward, and not overly burdensome,” Fagon said. “No CAURD-eligible New Yorkers should feel compelled to hire expensive attorneys or consultants in order to take advantage of this opportunity.”
The board also voted to approve another 20 cultivation licenses, bringing the number now to 223.
“I’m very excited. This kind of rounds out the loop on our Seeding Opportunity Initiative here in this state,” CCB chair Tremaine Wright said, referencing the group of conditional licensees that will grow, process, and sell the first adult use cannabis products in New York. In addition to regulators’ CAURD effort in March, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill in February to allow hemp farmers to be the first to cultivate and distribute cannabis for adult use.
Metzger also spoke about the medical cannabis regulations, which now include some environmental provisions, including a requirement for annual benchmarking of energy and water usage so that officials can track consumption over time and then document improvements. And the regulations also include language related to standards for lighting and dehumidification systems.
“We recognize in New York that business as usual does not suffice in the face of an existential climate threat,” Metzger said. “And as with other aspects of cannabis policy, we’re learning from the experiences of other states and are committed to supporting a more sustainable path. The provisions in these regulations are the beginning, not the end.”
Regulators are on the road near Buffalo in Erie County this week to “see the progress made” on “family farms” that are growing cannabis for adult use, said Buffalo-based Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who joined the meeting. Peoples-Stokes persistently pushed for cannabis law reform for years and joined Sen. Liz Krueger to sponsor the state’s adult use law, the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA).