End of Marijuana Prohibition on the NY Horizon

End of Marijuana Prohibition on the NY Horizon

Photo Courtesy of Sen. Addabbo’s Office

“Programs like this give my constituents an easy way to get rid of their old electronics right in their neighborhood,” Sen. Addabbo (l.) said.

By Michael V. Cusenza

On Tuesday, the State Senate passed legislation that will end the prohibition on adult-use marijuana in the state. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), sponsored by Sen. Liz Krueger, will establish a new office for the regulation of cannabis and decriminalizes the use of adult-use marijuana.

The MRTA creates a new Cannabis Law, and will consolidate the newly-created adult-use cannabis program with the existing medical cannabis program, and the existing cannabinoid hemp program, which will be under the control of the newly created Cannabis Control Board (the Board) and the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). The Board and OCM will be placed under the State Liquor Authority (SLA), but the SLA has no involvement with the Cannabis program.

The MRTA creates the framework that will build a regulated industry that will replace the illegal market while also preventing large companies from dominating the market. Additionally, this legislation will establish equity programs that will provide loans, grants, and incubator programs to ensure broad opportunities for participation in the new legal industry by people from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition as well as by small farmers. MRTA will automatically expunge records for people with previous convictions for activities that are no longer criminalized. MRTA will establish an Office of Cannabis Management with a board of 5 members – 3 appointed by the governor and 1 by each legislative house, with the chair subject to Senate confirmation. This legislation will also establish an Executive Director who will be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, and a Chief Equity Officer subject to approval by at least 4 members of the board.

There is also an Advisory Board made up of 13 members, 7 appointed by the Executive, 6 by the Legislature, with commissioners of DEC, DOH, OASAS, and the Attorney General as ex-officio non-voting members. The Advisory Board members must have balanced statewide geographic representation and be diverse in its composition. The appointed members are required to have expertise in several fields relating to health, social equity, and the cannabis and agricultural industries.

The Cannabis Advisory Board will represent a broad range of communities of interest, which will be responsible for approving grants from the Community Reinvestment Fund as well as making policy recommendations and reporting on the state of the cannabis program. MRTA grants the Office of Cannabis Management powers to evaluate license applicants using a broad range of metrics, including social equity status, commitment to environmentally sound policies, public health, and fair labor practices. It also expands the medical cannabis program allowing for additional licensees, expanded patient access, and a broader range of product types and allows current Registered Organizations limited access to the adult use market in exchange for licensing fees that will help fund equity programs.

The legislation prohibits vertical integration for all other licensees except micro-businesses, and the Registered Organizations currently operating in the Medical program, to protect the retail sector from being controlled by larger cannabis producers, and establishes a goal of 50% of licenses going to equity applicants. This legislation will allow limited homegrow of three mature and three immature plants for both medical patients and in the adult use program, subject to regulation by the Office of Cannabis Management.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday said, “This is really important legislation. I’m glad this day is finally here. It’s long overdue.”

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