Tag Archives: new york cannabis

David Feldman

Cuomo Signs NY Cannabis Decriminalization Bill

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday signed a cannabis decriminalization and expungement statute, a sort of second prize following the state’s failure to pass legalization of adult use of cannabis in June. The bill takes effect in 30 days and provides just a violation (like a traffic ticket) for possession of up to two ounces of marijuana. The new law also sets up a procedure for those convicted of possession of small amounts of cannabis to seek expungement of their records. The fine for possession of less than an ounce will be $50, or $200 if you possess between one and two ounces.

Many were disappointed when the Democrat-controlled legislature failed to complete legalization with its Democrat Governor. Key legislators blamed the Governor for his apparent unwillingness to be more hands on in pressuring some Senators to support the bill. Cuomo, for his part, said that if the majority support was not there, it was not for him to push. Much of the disagreement related to how far to take embedding social justice efforts into the law and how to use tax revenues to help communities long impacted negatively by the war on drugs. Many hope there will be an opportunity to revisit the issue when the legislature next convenes in January.

As the fourth largest state with 19 million people, New York legalizing adult use would be a major step for the industry. New Jersey also failed to pass adult use legislation this year and intends to put it up for a voter referendum in 2020. New York law does not permit referendums short of a Constitutional convention. Empire State voters decide on whether to hold a convention every 20 years, and voted down the effort in 2017. The industry was pleased when Illinois, the sixth largest US state with almost 13 million people, passed adult use legalization last month, the 11th state to fully legalize cannabis.

Effort to Legalize Adult Use of Marijuana Fails in New York State

By Jerome T. Levy and Lauren G. Perry

Lauren G. Perry
Lauren G. Perry
Jerome T. Levy

On June 17, 2019, the New York Legislative session adjourned without passing a bill that would have legalized adult use cannabis in the state.  The sponsor of the leading bill in the assembly and Manhattan Democratic Senator, Liz Krueger, announced that there was not sufficient time to gain the support necessary for passage of a bill.  Although there appears to be broad popular support for legalization of marijuana in New York, a number of “safety” issues arose, particularly among suburban constituencies relating to concerns such as operation of motor vehicles under the influence of marijuana.  Sentiment in suburban areas caused lawmakers from those districts to withhold the support needed, particularly in the state senate.  In addition, many blamed the failure on Governor’s Cuomo’s reluctance to give the measure full support.  Although the governor had endorsed adult use legalization earlier in the session, and had attempted to include it within the budget bill passed at the end of March, at the critical time before adjournment he appeared to take a hands‑off approach, becoming oddly passive, a pose this activist governor rarely adopts. Continue reading Effort to Legalize Adult Use of Marijuana Fails in New York State

David Feldman

New York Proposes Legalizing Adult Use Cannabis

On Tuesday, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo released draft adult use cannabis legislation. Called the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act, it is just a few hundred pages long. The bill would set up a new “Office of Cannabis Management” (OCM) to oversee regulation. The office would operate under the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, taking control from the Department of Health, where it currently sits for the existing NY medical cannabis program.

The OCM’s Executive Director would get to decide how many licenses for growing, processing and selling cannabis it will grant. It would also decide the “standards of cultivation and processing” of cannabis and be permitted to conduct inspections and exact civil penalties on rule breakers. In a nod to those historically disadvantaged by the war on drugs, the OCM would be authorized to offer low or zero interest loans to “qualified social equity applicants.” The OCM would also take into account whether a license applicant is minority or woman-owned or owned by a service-disabled veteran or a disadvantaged farmer, and must implement a plan to “actively promote racial, ethnic, and gender diversity when issuing licenses.” Businesses would be prohibited from taking “adverse employment action” against an employee just for conduct which the bill permits unless their job performance is impaired. Three different taxes would be imposed on cultivation and sale, including a 22% combined state and county tax on a sale from a wholesaler to a retailer. The state estimates this could yield as much as $300 million in annual tax revenues. Taxes would be used for traffic safety, small business and substance abuse services.

Medical cannabis availability would be expanded to include, among other things, autism, and the OCM can add to the list in their discretion. Hospitals would be able to dispense medical cannabis. The current “registered organization” model for medical cannabis companies would continue, with the bill requiring at least 10 such ROs (there currently are 10 licensees). Non-NY licensed medical cannabis operators could receive licenses here without going through the rigorous application process if the OCM is satisfied with the regulations in the state of the original license. In fact the proposal requires giving a preference to these companies that are licensed elsewhere. This would likely favor the larger multi-state operators. Medical patients would be permitted to grow up to four plants at home.

Current ROs would be permitted to apply for adult use licenses, and the OCM would be able to conduct an auction of those licenses among the current ROs, with money used to make those low or no interest loans. Qualifying for medical cannabis would be deemed a disability under NY law. Retail pricing of medical cannabis would be approved by the OCM. CBD growers and extractors would also be able to obtain licenses, but food from hemp and hemp that is not intended for consumption generally would be subject to normal agriculture laws. Cannabis testing labs, cannabis brokers, truckers, delivery services, CBD retailers, caterers serving cannabis and warehouses also would be licensed by the OCM.

Regarding adult use, companies would not be required to be “vertically integrated” – a business can be growing, processing, distributing, selling or transporting cannabis or operating an “on-site consumption” location, which would be permitted. Cultivators would only be permitted one license each. Processors would be able to receive up to three licenses. Growers, processors and distributors (other than existing ROs) would not be permitted to own an adult use dispensary, and no one would be allowed more than three adult use dispensaries. Public smoking and outdoor growing of cannabis would not be permitted, but growing in greenhouses would be. Adult use would be permitted for those aged 21 and older.

Municipalities where adult use dispensaries would be located would have the right to express their opinion on the matter, which the OCM can take into account. Larger counties and cities would have the right to opt out of adult use cannabis. One controversial provision requires companies with more than 25 employees to sign union agreements. Advertising would be permitted but regulated. No importing or exporting of cannabis would be permitted unless federal law changes. Licenses would not be transferable. There’s an interesting provision prohibiting state law enforcement agencies from cooperating with the Federal Government in enforcing the Controlled Substances Act against people complying with the proposed law. Licensees’ principal officers and directors do not have to be NY residents, but must be US citizens or permanent residents.

Remember this is just a proposed bill. It still has to go through the NYS legislature, though both of those houses are currently controlled by Cuomo’s Democrats. The Governor has stated he would like to pass legislation by mid-April.

 

David Feldman

New York Approves Medical Cannabis as Opioid Alternative

Following guidelines already in place at the New York Department of Health, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill last month formally adding “acute pain management” to its list of conditions for which medical cannabis can be prescribed. This change is important since it allows doctors to offer cannabis as an alternative to opioids for acute pain, not just chronic pain, which was previously added to the list. Substance use disorder sufferers also would be permitted under the bill to obtain medical cannabis to manage their pain, again with the hope of avoiding the use of opioids.

We need not recite the well-documented human destruction that has been caused by the US opioid epidemic. Not limited to those with addictive tendencies, many are innocently prescribed these drugs following surgeries or with other acute pain and become hooked. Now NY doctors will have a state legal alternative in these situations. And while there are no clear statistics yet, a study published by JAMA in April of this year concludes, “[L]iberalized prescribing of marijuana may result in decreased use of opioids, and hence, fewer subsequent opioid-related overdose events.” In this population-based, cross-sectional study using Medicaid prescription data for 2011 to 2016, medical marijuana laws and adult-use marijuana laws were associated with lower opioid prescribing rates.

As we know, Gov. Cuomo in the last year or so has gone from considering cannabis a gateway drug to appearing to support adult use legislation, which is currently being drafted by a task force he commissioned. If he wins reelection in November, which is widely expected, many believe he will support such legislation if passed. His Republican opponent, Marc Molinaro, previously supported adult use legalization but recently has been stopping short, agreeing with the availability of medical cannabis and decriminalization to avoid cannabis users facing jail time.