Report of Office of Cannabis Management Board Meeting, November 3, 2021

By Jerome T.  Levy

The meeting was called to order at 1:00 p.m. by the Chairperson, Tremaine Wright, noting that all parties were present and Ms. Garcia was attending via remote contact. Ms. Wright stated that the meeting was being recorded and will be available on the Cannabis Control Board website. Ms. Wright indicated that the agenda would include opening remarks, approval of the minutes of the previous meeting and then a report by the Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management, Chris Alexander. She reminded the audience and the Board members that the law was passed March 31, 2021 and as a result, while some aspects were moving swiftly, much of the work being done was still preliminary. The work has been mostly staffing, hiring new employees and moving staff from other New York State departments, principally the Department of Health.

Her goals were (1) staffing; (2) demonstrating stakeholder involvement; and (3) delivery on the statutory requirements. The transfer of DOH personnel who worked on the medical marijuana program and some of the people in pharmacological programs has been successful. In the area of stakeholder involvements, Ms. Wright stated that she had spoken with the New York State Planning Association and the Cannabis Business Association in Rochester. She also spoke to Public Employee Risk Management Association.

Hemp Program

Ms. Wright indicated that the Cannabis Control Board (“CCB”) would advance the cannabinoid hemp program. CCB will submit revised regulations on cannabinoid hemp incorporating some revisions based on public comments received during the statutory public comment period. Ms. Wright further noted that the CCB is subject to the Open Meetings law and stated that the meeting was being recorded and would be available on the website. There has been a ruling given the coronavirus pandemic that board members may participate in meetings closed to the public’s physical presence, provided that the public can observe on video the meeting as is being done with this meeting. Video will be available on the website subsequent to the meeting.

Minutes the meeting of October 21, 2021 were accepted without comments.

The Executive Director, Chris Alexander, yielded the floor to Board member Jan Metzger, who spoke about the hemp cannabinoid program. Hemp is a cannabis plant, but has a low THC (the psychotropic element) of below 0.3%. New York State has operated an agricultural pilot program since 2015. Some 800 farmers have participated in that program. The program was administered by the Department of Agriculture and Markets and was regarded as successful. Legislation expanding the cannabinoid hemp program was passed in 2019. Any product used for its cannabis oil properties will be subject to regulations. The program will provide clear rules for what is allowed and what is not allowed to help foster the development of a robust hemp industry. There will be four kinds of licenses:

    1. Cannabis-hemp processor for extracting and manufacturing product.
    2. Cannabis-hemp processor (manufacturer only, with no grow facility).
    3. Cannabis-hemp distributor, distribute cannabis-hemp from out-of-state sources.
    4. Cannabis-hemp retailer. Most of the applications have been in this category.

There have been 2,800 applications received by October 3. Processor – 403; manufacturer – 85; distributor from out-of-state – 36; retailers – 2,384. Regulations were issued in May and updated in July. The current revisions, which will be published soon, are similar to the July version. Regulations will take effect immediately, but there will be a six-month delay for successful applicants to come into compliance. There will be revisions to the cannabis-hemp regulations based on comments from the public. More requirements will be added on out-of-state distributors. Jessica Garcia then raised the question of the regulation of hemp flower. These are allowed according to Ms. Metzger, but not for smoking. There will be future edits to the regulations before they are published. Some of the changes that they are making – they will remove the requirement that cannabis-hemp products be “shelf-stable”; they will increase acceptable THC contents from 0.3% to 0.5% THC; they will allow out-of-state manufacturers to omit the label warning about drug testing; they will establish a process to allow small hemp farmers to affordably process and manufacture their hemp products. Ms. Wright then proposed Resolution 2021-07, Notification of Adoption of the Cannabis-Hemp Regulations. The Board approved unanimously. Ms. Wright then proposed Resolution 2021-08, affirming the staffing recommendations of the Executive Director. This was also approved. Ms. Wright then stated we have gotten through some of the administrative requirements, some of the staff will start as early as next week, some state employees have already moved over to the Office of Cannabis Management. Chris Alexander then gave his further report about whole flower being available soon. Cannabis use in accordance with state law is okay (discussion of employer/employee relations and testing). Employers have a right to forbid cannabis on premises, but do not have a right to forbid employees from using cannabis in their off hours in a legal fashion. There was discussion of the drug testing rules which appear in the New York State labor law (Section 201(d)(4)(a)). The employer may prohibit employees from bringing cannabis to the workplace or keeping it in company cars or trucks.

With respect to the home use regulations which had been discussed at the October 21 meeting, their public comment period under the SAPA will continue until January 2022. These proposed regulations are available on the OCM website.

There are limitations on home use of cannabis.

    1. It is confined to adults 21 years and older.
    2. It is illegal to “drive high.”
    3. There must be safe storage of cannabis products.
    4. Reminder that cannabis is not legal everywhere. Cannot cross state lines.

The Chair then stated that the next meeting would be at a date to be announced. No business further pending, the meeting was adjourned at 1:42 p.m.

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