New Yorkers are waiting with bated breath for more concrete parameters within the new recreational marijuana industry after the Senate approved the appointment of two senior executives this week to oversee the licensing and regulation of the emerging market.
The Senators approved Tremaine Wright as Chair of the Cannabis Control Board and Christopher Alexander as Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management during an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday convened by Governor Kathy Hochul to extend the state’s eviction and foreclosure moratorium.
“One of my top priorities is to finally get the cannabis industry up and running in New York – this was long overdue, but we will make up for the lost time,” said Hochul.
Wright, a former Brooklyn MP who chaired the legislative caucus for Blacks, Puerto Ricans, Hispanics, and Asia, is the first female director in the state’s Financial Services Office of Financial Inclusion and Empowerment. She is a lawyer and former small business owner.
Alexander is a former Political Senate employee who also worked in the cannabis sector.
“These two people bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to their new roles, and I know they will do an excellent job of designing and implementing safe, fair and transparent regulations that recognize the need to address the effects of the ban fix. “Had on color communities,” said Hochul. “I look forward to working with you to build our state’s cannabis industry and make real change for New Yorkers.”
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which went into effect March 31, legalized recreational marijuana use for adults ages 21 and up, and immediately removed marijuana-related convictions from New Yorkers’ records.
The new oversight committee and management were created by law, but the executive chamber and legislature did not make appointments to either agency as of Wednesday.
The governing body will consist of five members, three of whom will be appointed by the governor, including the chairman, and one appointment by each house of the legislature. The Advisory Board consists of 13 voting members, seven of whom are appointed by the governor and two by each legislative chamber.
Officials estimated that the state’s first adult sales would begin 18 months after the MRTA was signed last spring, making New York the 15th time legalizing recreational marijuana. Without appointments to the controlling units, the process was delayed for at least another five and a half months, as other board positions are waiting to be filled.
Dr. Stacia Woodcock, pharmacy manager at Curaleaf, said it was a misunderstanding that marijuana sales would start immediately after legalization.
“That’s pretty normal for legalization in motion,” said Woodcock. “It’s the same timeline for other states.”
The Cannabis Control Board and Office of Cannabis Management will create and implement production, licensing, packaging, marketing and sales regulations for the state adult cannabis industry, hemp and medical marijuana.
The OCM will also oversee the state’s existing medical marijuana program, with certified patients, caregivers and doctors currently being regulated by the state Department of Health.
“Specifically, when it comes to regulations for adult use, no state has got it ‘right’, but there are positive things we can learn from regulations across the county, both good and bad,” said Patrik Jonsson, Curaleaf’s regional president for the Northeast. noting California’s extensive plant and product testing and New Jersey’s significant wholesale market.
“To kickstart the industry, the state must allow existing operators to get up to speed with the adult usage program early so they can begin developing the first foundation of the program, including payments to support social justice applicants and ensure usage by selling adult product for these new businesses, “he said. “Existing medical operators already have grow sites that can help manufacture products for adults while maintaining the integrity of the medical market. From there, existing operators, government regulators, and new social justice applicants should work together to develop a support system that will enable social justice applicants to succeed and outperform early operators. “
State regulators should allow expanded product formats to encourage people to buy cannabis from regulated pharmacies rather than the black market, Jonsson said.
The MRTA contains provisions to expand the medical marijuana program and the OCM is developing the regulatory framework necessary to implement these changes, but few details of the extensions are known to date.
Doctors can certify New Yorkers as medical marijuana patients under a list of qualifying conditions, including several that help with chronic pain such as migraines, arthritis, and menstrual cramps.
“If you look at the list, they might not think the arthritis in my hands is chronic pain,” said Woodcock.
The new state facilities will further expand the licensing requirements for medical marijuana. The updated qualifiers are expected to approve medical marijuana for any condition that a doctor believes will benefit the patient.
Access to whole-flower cannabis products is not permitted under the state’s current medical marijuana program, which was first introduced in 2018.
“We got tons of phone calls – people think the law is passed and they can shop right now, but we have to explain that it will be a year if not more,” said Woodcock. “But you don’t have to wait. You can get a health card. “
Woodcock, a pharmacist, said New Yorkers can take advantage of a robust medical marijuana program and won’t have to wait for state and state-regulated pharmacies to open next year before they have access to cannabis.
“The admission requirements are much milder than people might think,” she said, encouraging anyone interested to check with their GP.
The law requires a five-person board to oversee the establishment and implementation of the Office of Cannabis Management and appoint a chief equity officer to develop a social justice plan to prioritize the participation of companies owned by women or minority, service-disabled people Veterans and smallholders in an underrepresented population.
Alexander previously served as a Senate Councilor and Drug Policy Alliance contributor who helped draft the MRTA to ensure opportunities for participation by communities that have historically been banned.
The Alliance strongly supported the Wright and Alexander appointments.
“We welcome the nominations from Chris Alexander … and former MP Tremaine Wright,” said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Both understand the deep damage criminalization has done to individuals and communities – especially colored communities – across the state. Their work so far reflects a commitment to work with people directly affected by prohibitions and demonstrated their belief in evidence-based guidelines that put justice and justice first. “
Agriculture Committee Chair, Senator Michelle Hinchey, D-Saugerties was delighted to vote to appoint Wright and Alexander to launch the state’s recreational cannabis program – the fairest and most diverse in the country, she said.
“This industry will fuel economic growth for our communities and financial stability for backcountry farmers, small business owners and workers across the state,” said Hinchey. “We have seen tremendous excitement and eagerness to get New York’s commercial cannabis program up and running, and we have a responsibility to do so as soon as possible. I look forward to our continued work to build this industry as a pillar of New York’s agricultural sector. “
The advisory board will make recommendations to the supervisory body and administer and control the distribution of social justice and community reinvestment grants.
“As New York creates its regulations with the focus and intent of creating opportunities for social justice applicants and areas of disproportionate impact, it will be critical that the governing body has the framework and people to support these initiatives as soon as possible the programs are online. “Said Jonson.
“Raising the money is the easy part of figuring out who is getting what, when and why,” he said.