ALBANY — State regulators approved rules Thursday governing New York’s soon-to-begin retail cannabis sales, ensuring the first batch of licenses will go to business owners with past pot convictions.
New York’s Cannabis Control Board gave the green light to a licensing program proposed earlier this year that prioritizes “justice-involved individuals” as well as an online application portal that will go live likely next month.
“This is a tremendous stride in the right direction,” board chairwoman Tremaine Wright said. “We’re leading with equity in this state.”
Under the new rules, applicants for the first set of the Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses must prove they or a family member have been convicted of a marijuana-related crime prior to New York’s legalization of pot in 2021 and have at least two years experience owning a profitable business.
The Office of Cannabis Management will post the opening date for the portal on its website at least 14 days before the application period opens. The online application is meant to be user-friendly and the “average New Yorker can complete it independently,” Wright said.
While its unclear how large a pool of applicants will be eligible under the rules, OCM executive director Chris Alexander said it’s an equity-focused example that he hopes to see other states embrace as cannabis legalization continues across the U.S.
“This is how we build a model for establishing a truly equitable and inclusive cannabis industry that other states can follow,” he said.
Under the state’s Seeding Opportunity Initiative, between 100 and 200 dispensary licenses could be issued by this fall, with sales allowed before the end of the year.
More than 200 New York farms have been granted licenses to grow cannabis plants that will be used to stock up adult-use dispensaries as part of the same New York-centric program meant to ensure larger, multi-state operators don’t flood the market.
Officials are planning on visiting a handful of hemp farms that are already growing cannabis intended for the recreational market on Friday. Members of the Cannabis Control Board will check out growing operations at farms located in Erie, Schoharie, and Ulster Counties.
The board on Thursday also approved some changes to the state’s medical marijuana program streamlining the patient registration process and revised packaging, labeling, marketing and advertising regulations to align with proposed regulations for the retail industry.
In New York, adults 21 and older can possess and publicly consume pot even though sales have yet to begin. The law also allows for the “gifting” of marijuana as long as no money is exchanged.
Last week, OCM released a trove of cease and desist letters sent to businesses around the state the agency says have been skirting the rules.
Dozens of legit-looking dispensaries have popped up in the city and elsewhere offering pot as a free gift or part of a subscription program.
Regulators say business owners who continue to flout the law could become ineligible for retail licenses once the program gets up and running.
Meanwhile, mixed messages about whether random drug tests would still be used to detect marijuana use sparked confusion among members of the NYPD.
Despite a leaked city Law Department memo stating that marijuana testing of cops is no longer legal, police brass on Wednesday said that the department will maintain current policies prohibiting officers from lighting up.
Union sources told the Daily News that the FDNY is likely to o along with the new guidance, meaning firefighters and EMTs will be permitted to smoke pot when not on duty.