KINGSTON, N.Y. — You can have it. You can smoke it. But until the Cannabis Control Board fleshes out the structure of the state’s new cannabis law, it will be some time before individuals over the age of 21 will be able to legally purchase marijuana in New York state.
The new law allows individuals to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana (although, again, it is still illegal to buy or sell cannabis in New York, and federal laws prohibit it from being brought across state lines). It can be smoked or vaped anywhere tobacco is allowed, with some exceptions. For example, smoking is banned in the car even if it’s parked as well as anywhere where alcohol is served, said Jennifer Metzger, a former state senator from Rosendale who is a member of the Cannabis Control Board.
While the law may currently seem like an enigma, Metzger said there really is a logic behind it.
“It takes time to set up the whole regulatory framework and it takes time to create new businesses as well,” she said.
Work in creating that framework was stymied by a six-month delay in the creation of the board, due in large part to the sexual harassment scandal that enveloped former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and ultimately led to his resignation.
Gov. Kathy Hochul appointed the final two members to the five-member panel in late September, clearing the way for the board to begin its work.
Since October, the board has been working to develop the regulations that will govern the new industry, including issuing applications and licenses to cannabis businesses and approving the rules and regulations that will govern the new industry.
The body has already made some headway, particularly around regulations governing medical marijuana — although it’s not available yet, the board has added smokeable marijuana to the approved medical marijuana list and it expanded the providers who can prescribe it — and to the cannabinoid hemp program (CBD), allowing it in food and beverages up to certain thresholds.
Now, Metzger said, the board is turning its attention to the adult recreational use program.
Originally, the board had expected to roll out the adult-use recreational program within 18 months of the law’s passage in March; while that timeframe seems a little more daunting due to the late start, Metzger said commissioners believe it may still be in reach.
“We are trying to make up for lost time,” she said. ” We hope to beat the 18-month deadline. We hope to be able to get the regulator framework in places before then, but we can’t promise.”
Metzger said the new law allows for nine different types of licenses to be issued. The board, she said, must define what those licenses are and the criteria one must meet to receive a particular license. The board must also establish the criteria for those applying for licenses under the law’s social and economic equity provisions. Under the law, 50 percent of the licenses must be awarded to social and economic equity applicants. And it must also establish regulations for on-site consumption of marijuana as well as the regulations governing advertising and marketing. In addition, it must develop regulations for home cultivation, which will be permitted to occur 18 months after the first dispensary opens, as well as for the cultivation, distribution, processing and delivery of the products.
“There’s a lot of meat to be put on the bones of the law,” she said.
At the same time, Metzger added, the Cannabis Control Board is in the process of staffing the new Office of Cannabis Management. That office, she said, will have upwards of 140 employees, including inspectors, compliance officers and staff charged with reviewing applications.
The board recently appointed Chris Alexander as head of the Office of Cannabis Management and named Jason Starr as its chief equity officer.
A 13-member advisory board that will advise the Cannabis Control Board must also still be appointed, she said.
Throughout each step of the process, according to Metzger, the board will seek public input before adopting the final regulations. The public comment period on homegrown cultivation for medical marijuana ends on Tuesday, Jan. 18.
To learn more about New York state’s cannabis laws or to follow the workings of the Cannabis Control Board go to www.cannabis.ny.gov.