The New York legislature has considered a slew of cannabis bills this session, from one that sought to “bolster and promote the long-term stability” of the adult use market to one that pushed for a more environmentally-friendly approach.
But with the session in Albany wrapped for the summer, only a handful made it to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s desk. And, so far, she’s signed even fewer.
The highest-profile cannabis legislation that Hochul has signed so far is focused on enforcement against unregulated cannabis shops, of which there are an estimated 1,500 with a concentration in New York City. So far, ten licensed shops have opened in the state, and five delivery services.
Hochul held a news conference in Brooklyn last week to highlight the state’s enforcement actions to-date, which have netted 1,000 pounds of unlicensed cannabis worth roughly $11 million being sold illegally in more than two dozen storefronts in New York City, Albany, Ithaca, and Binghamton. Hochul said that she wants to be “aggressive.”
“I want to send a message loud and clear across this state that if you’re operating illegally, you will be caught, and you will be stopped,” Hochul said, later adding that agencies will be working together to “enforce the law quickly.”
“Instead of just being a cost of doing business, these fines now have the power to put these shops out of business,” Hochul added later.
Hochul also signed legislation that extended conditional adult-use cultivator and processor licenses through June 1, 2024 to prevent market disruptions.
With the legislative session concluded, here’s where lawmakers put their energy.
Waiting for Gov. Hochul’s signature.
Several cannabis bills are waiting for Hochul’s signature.
One bill, S 7295, sponsored by Senators Michelle Hinchey and Rachel May, would allow conditional adult-use cultivator and processor licensees to “sell tested, packaged, and sealed cannabis products or biomass to a cannabis dispensing facility licensed or permitted by a tribal nation for retail sale.”
This bill came about, Assemblymember Donna Lupardo told Cannabis Wire, when representatives from the Mohawk, Shinnecock, and Seneca tribes shared their “interest in this one time ability to purchase surplus cannabis.” For context, conditional adult use growers, many of whom are the same distressed hemp farmers who struggled amid the state’s CBD boom-and-bust a few years ago, are increasingly sharing frustration and fears at regulatory meetings that, with so few licensed adult use shops open, they will not be able to sell the cannabis that they were tapped by regulators to grow for the first months of the state’s adult use market.
“The tribal nation on Long Island has many millions of dollars that they want to spend because they would like to open a dispensary and they are in a position to purchase this. And I know they’re trying to get on the governor’s radar with this,” Lupardo told Cannabis Wire. “I know that they’re interested in spending a lot of money.”
It is not yet clear whether Hochul will sign the bill.
“I view this as an agricultural emergency,” Lupardo told Cannabis Wire.
Another bill, S 7508, sponsored by Senator Luis Sepúlveda, is also on Hochul’s desk. If she signs it, it would extend to New York City the same tax deductions that state lawmakers allowed for cannabis businesses in 2022, as Cannabis Wire reported at the time.
A 6435, sponsored by Assemblymember Donna Lupardo and co-sponsored by Aileen Gunther, also awaits Hochul’s signature. It would allow “commercial feed for a pet, specialty pet, horse, or camelid to include hemp seed or a substance derived from hemp seed.” Lupardo has been a longtime champion of New York’s hemp market.
Some noteworthy bills didn’t gain traction this session.
One bill that failed to pick up steam this session was Senator Jeremy Cooney’s S7045B, or the Cannabis Adult-Use Transition Act (CAUTA).
The bill had many aims, from moving forward when medical cannabis licensees, known as ROs, could begin selling to adult use consumers, to mandating that Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licensees “be provided with the support and resources envisioned” in the state’s adult use law.
“I don’t think we did enough for the industry before we left the legislative session,” Cooney said. “So, I think that was a miss on our part. I think we had some good conversations. But ultimately what happened was we just ran out of time,” Cooney said at a Cannabis Wire event in Manhattan last week.
There were efforts made this year to help cultivators connect to consumers, in part because there are so few adult use shops open.
S 6470, sponsored by Senator Michelle Hinchey, would have allowed conditional adult-use cultivator licensees to “sell their own cannabis products.” It also sought to lift up farmers by creating a grant or loan program to aid farmers in processing their cannabis flower into distillate. The Assembly version of the bill was sponsored by Lupardo, and co-sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes.
“Due to a variety of circumstances beyond the control of New York’s cannabis farmers, many licensees cannot afford to process their cannabis or sell their finished products. As a result, their 2022 crops are losing value while in storage due to diminished potency, color and aroma. Without sales, many are unable to plant a crop for the upcoming growing season, and are in severe financial stress,” the bill text reads.
“In my desperation to address the hundreds of thousands of unsold cannabis on behalf of our farmers, I wasn’t getting anywhere just through the normal channels, so decided to start putting legislation out there for conversation,” Lupardo, a co-sponsor, told Cannabis Wire.
There’s interest in this model. Lupardo told Cannabis Wire that she’s fielded interest from local officials in Saratoga during race season, and that she pitched cannabis as an agricultural pop-up at the New York State Fair.
But the plan for cannabis on-farm sales hit a snag in part due to the high number of municipalities that remain opposed to adult use cannabis sales and future consumption spaces. According to the Rockefeller Institute of Government’s Marijuana Opt-Out Tracker, more than half of localities have said “no.”
“Quite a few of the municipalities that the farmers were growing in were opted out communities would not have allowed on-farm sales anyway. It did underscore the need for the [Office of Cannabis Management] to release the micro license,” Lupardo told Cannabis Wire. “There were too many obstacles, not only with on-farm sales being disallowed and many of these municipalities, just difficulties with tracking tax payments and security.”
S 1751, sponsored by Senator Michelle Hinchey and co-sponsored by Senator Jeremy Cooney, would have required that cannabis license holders have an energy efficiency plan, and submit it to the Department of Agriculture and Markets.
S 2263, sponsored by Senator James Sanders, Jr and co-sponsored by Senators Robert Jackson, Brian Kavanagh, and John Liu, would have blocked the eviction of tenants for using “medical marihuana for a certified medical use.” The bill passed in the Senate by a 49-14 vote, with opposition coming from Republican senators (though a handful of Republicans actually voted in favor). The Assembly version of the bill, A 7159, sponsored by Daniel O’Donnell, stalled in the Committee on Housing.
Another bill, A 7014, of which Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes was lead sponsor, would have repealed the medical cannabis excise tax. That bill was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means in May but didn’t advance. The Senate version didn’t make it out of the Budget and Revenue committee. Peoples-Stokes also worked with Cooney in March for a push on SB4831/A4619, which would have repealed the THC potency tax on adult use cannabis products.
“I actually don’t think that people should have to pay taxes on their medications. We don’t pay it on any other prescriptions,” Peoples-Stokes told Cannabis Wire.
Peoples-Stokes told Cannabis Wire that she has a plan for the off months ahead of the next legislative session. That includes “an aggressive deep dig into exactly how much tax revenue that is bringing to the states, and perhaps, if necessary, figure out some other sort of ways that it can be compensated for as opposed to making patients pay for that price.”
“The medical marijuana removal taxes on those products I think is going to be a bigger lift to climb, just because of the reluctance of the Budget Office as well as our own Ways and Means people,” Peoples-Stokes told Cannabis Wire. “So, I’m going to have to do a little bit more intensive lobbying on that one in the next session.”
Editor’s note: this story has been updated to clarify which lawmaker is the primary sponsor of each bill.