New York Lawmakers Send Marijuana Licensing and Equity Bill to Governor’s Office
The New York Senate and Assembly have approved a bill to provide interim marijuana cultivator and processor licenses to existing hemp businesses that take certain steps to promote fairness in the emerging industry. The measure now heads to the governor’s office.
Sponsored by House Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D), who took the lead on the Adult Use Legalization Bill that was signed into law last year, the legislation aims to simultaneously accelerate the process of building the adult use market in New York City while supporting efforts to achieve ambitious equity goals with respect to cannabis company participation.
The proposal was approved by the Assembly by a vote of 99 to 43 on Wednesday after being passed by the Senate by a total of 50 votes to 13 on Tuesday.
Senator Michelle Hinchey (D) led the Senate version of the legislation.
“Last year, with the historic passage of the [Marihuana Regulation & Taxation Act], New York has laid the foundation for a legal cannabis industry built on social equity, inclusion and ensuring that economic success remains local,” Hinchey said in a press release. “To achieve these goals and create a true circular economy, we need New York farmers to start the cultivation process now so that when cannabis dispensaries open, we can fill the shelves with quality New York-grown produce. .”
“Our existing hemp growers, who have been among the hardest hit by market fluctuations, already have the knowledge base to meet this need, and I am proud to sponsor legislation to help them obtain conditional licenses, which will allow New York to implement its cannabis program more quickly,” the senator said.
As it stands, adults 21 and older can possess and publicly use cannabis, as well as give marijuana to other adults as long as they are not compensated. But regulators are still finalizing licensing rules, and no retailers are currently allowed to sell cannabis for adult use in the state.
The rationale section of the new bill states that it is “necessary to enable rapid establishment of the adult-use cannabis market by permitting the temporary and conditional cultivation and processing of adult-use cannabis as soon as possible”.
Unlike another temporary licensing bill that was introduced in the Senate last year, this one places a heavy emphasis on fairness goals.
Not only would prospective conditional licensees have to have been licensed by the state Department of Agriculture to grow hemp by December 31, 2021 – and have grown the crop for two of the past four years – they would also be required to” participate in an environmental sustainability program and a social equity mentorship program.
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“This mentorship program aims to train those interested in becoming licensed growers and leverage remote and in-person mentees with experience in farm business management, sustainable cannabis cultivation, and best practices,” indicates the text of the bill, adding that mentees must match. within the established definition of an equity seeker.
This currently includes people from communities disproportionately impacted by Prohibition, minority and women-owned businesses, distressed farmers, and disabled veterans. However, other bills have been introduced in recent months that seek to expand the equity criteria to include other groups such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and non-binary people.
In addition, the proposed cannabis law requires conditional license holders to “enter into a labor peace agreement with a bona fide labor organization that is actively engaged in representing or attempting to represent the applicant’s employees in six months after obtaining the permit. »
Hinchey said his legislation — which is also co-sponsored by the House champion for last year’s adult use legalization bill, Sen. Liz Krueger (D) — “will help move the critical social equity goals set out in the MRTA by establishing mentorship programs that bring more BIPOC producers into the fold to build diversity in agriculture and provide opportunities for all who want to be part of this exciting space.
The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) would be able to issue the conditional licenses until June 1, 2023, after which companies would be required to apply under a standard adult license. The conditional licenses would be invalidated in their entirety as of June 30, 2024.
Conditional cultivator license holders would be allowed to “minimally process and distribute cannabis products, so long as those end products are in cannabis flower form,” the bill says.
“This bill will be especially helpful in providing Social Equity Retail Dispensary Licensees with products on the first day of retail sale,” the rationale section states. “Additionally, this bill will facilitate interested social equity growers and processors a pathway to licensing through invaluable experience and knowledge gained by partnering with hemp growers and processors. current experienced staff in a social equity mentorship program.”
“This bill will ultimately strengthen the social equity agenda and help achieve the goal that fifty percent of all licenses will be awarded to social equity applicants,” it says.
For those who obtain a conditional license and maintain a good reputation in accordance with the rules and requirements, such provisional cultivators and processors will be “eligible to apply for and receive an adult cultivation license, provided the license holder can meet all the requirements of the new license.
“Such a license holder will receive, at a minimum, an adult grower license for the size of the flowering canopy that he has been authorized to grow pursuant to his conditional adult grower license or a larger size flowering canopy and the authorization to use artificial light as may be established by the council in a by-law,” reads the text.
Passing legislation that expedites licensing could help the state reduce the number of companies that effectively use the legal “gift” provision of the state’s marijuana law to donate cannabis. “for free” if a non-marijuana purchase is made.
New York regulators recently issued warnings to more than two dozen companies they believe are illegally selling unlicensed marijuana or exploiting the “gift” component.
Here are some other ways New York lawmakers and regulators are working to build on the legalization law as the state prepares to implement retail sales:
Earlier this month, for example, a state senator introduced a bill that would promote recycling in the marijuana industry once retail sales officially kick off.
Hinchey is also sponsoring this legislation, which would require cannabis stores to apply a $1 deposit for all marijuana products sold in single-use plastic containers and also reimburse consumers for those fees if they return the container.
The senator is also behind a separate bill introduced last year that would prioritize hemp-based packaging over synthetic plastics for marijuana products.
The recycling bill is identical to an Assembly version tabled by MP Patricia Fahy (D) last year.
Sen. Jeremey Cooney (D) is sponsoring a recently introduced bill to allow licensed cannabis companies to deduct certain business expenses on their tax returns. He is also behind the aforementioned moves to expand the definition of marijuana law fairness and provide provisional licenses to prepare the market.
Governor Kathy Hochul (D), who replaced Cuomo after he resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal, has repeatedly stressed her interest in effectively implementing the legalization law.
Hochul released a state-of-the-state book last month that called for the creation of a $200 million public-private fund to specifically help promote social equity in the booming market for marijuana in the state.
The governor said that although cannabis business licenses have yet to be approved since the law was legalized last year, the market is expected to generate billions of dollars and it is important to “create opportunities for all New Yorkers, especially those from historically marginalized communities.”
This proposal was also cited in Hochul’s executive budget, which was released last month. The budget also estimates that New York should generate more than $1.25 billion in marijuana tax revenue over the next six years.
The state Department of Labor separately announced in recent guidelines that employers in New York are no longer allowed to test most workers for marijuana.
Meanwhile, a New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to create an institute to research the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
Another state legislator introduced legislation in December to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for medical use and establish facilities where the psychedelic could be grown and administered to patients.
Meanwhile, as New York prepares to launch its adult-use marijuana market, OCM announced a significant expansion of the existing medical cannabis program this month.
Now doctors will be able to make medical marijuana recommendations to people for any condition they think can be treated with cannabis, rather than relying on a list of specific eligible conditions.
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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.