Notes from New York Cannabis Control Board Meeting, October 2021

By Michael D. Schwamm and Joy Karugu

There were several outcomes of the inaugural New York Cannabis Control Board (CCB) Meeting held on October 5, 2021. The Meeting revealed that the CCB and the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) will be increasing their staff and taking steps to extend the medical cannabis program and cannabinoid hemp licensing. Also during the Meeting, Jason Starr was announced and voted in as the Chief Equity Officer of the OCM. He will work with Executive Director Chris Alexander in building New York’s social equity program.

Medical Marijuana Program Extension

As discussed during the Meeting, the management of New York’s medicinal cannabis program will be transferred from the Department of Health (DOH) to the OCM. In practice, the OCM is undertaking the following steps, all of which will take effect immediately: (i) under state legislation, anybody legally authorized to prescribe a restricted drug may now prescribe marijuana; (iii) the maximum marijuana supply for patients has been increased to 60 days; (iii) registered organizations will permit the sale of whole-flowers (an approved form of medical cannabis product) to eligible patients; and (iv) patients and health professionals will no longer have to pay a $50 registration fee.

The other major expansion issue that Chairperson Tremaine Wright highlighted was the extension of qualified clinical practitioners able to verify medical patients to include any professional who has a license to administer a restricted drug.  The CCB will work hard to ensure the healthcare community is aware of this development and ready to start certifying patients. They are also hopeful that the introduction of whole-flower will boost patient involvement in the program owing to the decrease in the price of the product that this adjustment will bring.

Rollout of the Cannabinoid Hemp Program

The CCB also announced that New York’s cannabis hemp licensing procedure through its Cannabinoid Hemp Program is being moved from the Department of Health to the OCM. Chairperson Tremaine Wright presented some data on the number of license applications currently submitted and stated that the policies and guidelines for cannabis hemp are a priority. The CCB gave a brief summary of the amount of hemp licenses obtained: over 2,700 today; 384 of them were for distributor licenses, 36 processors, 34 were for manufacturer licenses, and the remaining 2,275 were for store licenses. The CCB plans to continue to work in the coming months to guarantee the continued growth of the Cannabinoid Hemp Program.

No Announced Timeframe on the Issuance of Adult-Use Rules and Regulations

The CCB also discussed the expected timeframe for the release of adult-use cannabis laws and regulations. While the CCB approved and authorized 22 new staff members, there is not yet a public announcement about when the CCB and OCM can expect the rules to be published.

Once staffing is started, the office will be starting a comprehensive public education campaign. This campaign will educate the public about essential elements in the legislation and improvements to the medical program, including safety messaging to avoid drug driving, teaching patients on proper storage of their cannabis products, and issues of particular concern for youth, pregnant and breastfeeding individuals’ usage.