During the New York Cannabis Control Board’s first in-person meeting in New York City on Tuesday, regulators approved rules that will allow the state’s medical cannabis patients to grow their own medicine starting next month.
The approved rules only apply to patients age 21 or older. Eventually, all adults age 21 or older will be allowed to home grow, but those rules have not yet been drafted. Cannabis has been legal for medical use since 2014, while adult use became legal in 2021.
Patients will be able to grow up to three mature and three immature cannabis plants. There are currently more than 150,000 certified medical cannabis patients in the state, and patients can now obtain a doctor’s recommendation for any condition.
“I’m really thrilled we’re taking this step,” Board Member Jen Metzger said. “I think it’s going to really improve the accessibility and affordability of cannabis for some cannabis patients. And I look forward to our next step of … completing the regulations for adult use.”
However, residents of federally subsidized housing are subject to federal law, which still prohibits cannabis, meaning that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers will not be able to grow at home, either for medical or non-medical use.
Members of the Board also discussed and approved amendments to cannabinoid hemp and hemp extract regulations. These changes more clearly define “craft” operators, for example, and will require that entities importing hemp from other states or countries “tell us where it’s coming from,” said Axel Bernabe, the Office of Cannabis Management’s chief of staff and senior policy director. Bernabe added that these products must also meet the “New York standard.”
“We have seen some product coming in from other countries where, you know, heavy metals and some pesticides seem to be a problem,” Bernabe said.
Tremaine Wright, chair of the Board, said that the cannabinoid hemp program is part of their efforts toward “creating spaces that allow people with less economic means to enter into the space and to have an opportunity to really create businesses that will be able to pivot even once we’re federal,” Wright said, referencing federal legalization.
The Board also approved 10 conditional processor applicants and approved 19 more conditional cultivation licenses, bringing the total to 242.
“We’re very excited about the work that’s being done by small farmers across the state of New York,” Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander said during Tuesday’s meeting. “They’ve grown some incredible product.”
Alexander also said that regulators have received a lot of questions about how many licenses an individual or entity can hold or invest in, and then handed the topic to Bernabe. One limitation along these lines, for example, is that an entity that holds a retail license cannot hold any other license type, with the exception of the existing medical cannabis operators, which operate from seed-to-sale and will be allowed to continue to do so if they transition to adult use sales.
“We’re going to allow for investment across multiple licenses, but you can’t go up and stack licenses. You can’t build a very large grow on the basis of holding multiple licenses, like you can in most other states,” Bernabe said. “It’s to encourage small and medium sized businesses. It’s really to create a more democratic, and a smaller, accessible and open market for folks.”
The Board also approved a proposal to allow for two changes of ownership related to existing medical cannabis Registered Organizations, Sativa Medical and PharmaCann of New York LLC; the Board approved without questions or comments.
While conditional cultivation and processing licenses have been awarded, the application window is still open for the conditional retail licenses. It will close on Monday.
Wright said that regulators still “plan to begin issuing the CAURD licenses before the end of this year,” adding, “This is a monumental feat.”
These conditional licensees will be the first in the state to grow and sell cannabis for adult use. Only existing hemp growers are eligible for the cultivation and processing licenses, and only “justice-involved” individuals are eligible for the retail licenses.
Regulators are expected to release the full package of adult use regulations next year, and to begin formal licensing after those are approved. Until then, only these conditional licensees can operate.
The state released information in August about how many conditional retail locations will be concentrated in each area of the state. Manhattan gets 22 out the gate, for example, whereas the Mohawk Valley gets 2.
While regulators have continued to reiterate that sales will launch before the end of 2022, there are some critical pieces that have yet to be set into motion. For example, the state has not yet named the design-build firms that will, as Cannabis Wire reported, “provide design, construction, and other services needed to renovate existing spaces for conditional adult-use cannabis retail dispensary facilities to be operated by social equity licensees.” Cannabis Wire has requested updates from the state’s Dormitory Authority regarding the timing of the announcement and has been told “not yet.”
Also, lawmakers have increasingly raised concerns about the state’s unlicensed sales, which have grown in number and brazenness, as Cannabis Wire reported. State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Dick Gottfried, and Council Member Erik Bottcher sent a joint letter to Mayor Eric Adams, asking him to act on the unregulated sales, whether they be from converted vans or pop-up storefronts.
New York Senator Liz Krueger, one of two key sponsors of the Marihuana Regulation & Taxation Act, told Cannabis Wire that she plans to reintroduce a bill in January that aims to rein in the unregulated market.
“Frankly, the messaging we’ve really been trying to get across to anybody and everybody who thinks they’re going to jump ahead of the law,” Krueger said, is, “‘Guess what? You’re not getting a license to do this legally.’”