New York’s “Seeding Opportunity Initiative” Opens up Adult-Use Cultivator License Applications to Hemp Farmers on March 15 and Introduces Proposed Regulations that Will Favor Those With Past Marijuana Convictions for Retail Dispensary Licenses

On March 10, New York State’s cannabis regulators filed proposed regulations for conditional adult-use retail dispensary regulations.  The public will have 60 days to provide comment on the proposed regulations before the Cannabis Control Board votes on them.

The proposed regulations place “justice-involved” individuals – those who have been convicted for a marijuana-related offense and their family members – at the front of the line for retail dispensary applications.  To assist those applicants, Gov. Kathy Hochul has proposed a $200 million budget that, if approved by the Legislature next month, would be used to help find, secure and renovate storefronts for the dispensaries.  The state’s goal is for the dispensaries operated by “justice-involved” individuals to open by the end of 2022, with other dispensaries to follow in early 2023.  New York’s approach differs from other states that have legalized cannabis in that it is attempting to address head-on the struggles that social equity license applicants often face in raising capital and starting a business in a highly-regulated industry.  Chris Alexander, the executive director of the state’s Office of Cannabis Management, said he expects 100-200 licenses to go to “justice-involved” individuals.

Under the “Farmers First Program,” the application period for adult-use cultivator licenses will also open up on Tuesday, March 15 and end on June 30, 2022.  Gov. Hochul signed legislation last month that created a new Adult-Use Conditional Cultivator License, authorizing eligible hemp growers to apply for a license to grow cannabis containing over 0.3% THC for the upcoming adult-use market.  To be eligible to apply, the hemp grower must have been authorized to grow hemp under the Department of Agriculture and Markets Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program and meet certain other requirements.  These conditional licenses make it possible for farmers to grow cannabis in the 2022 growing season.

With these moves, the Seeding Opportunity Initiative seeks to establish a supply chain from New York State farmers to social equity retailers.

The general regulation package for cannabis licenses is expected to be released in May.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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