New York legalized marijuana usage in the spring, and cities and towns across the state must decide whether to allow cannabis retailers and “on-site consumption” before the end of the year.
The city has decided to participate. However, this does not mean that New Yorkers aged 21 and over will be able to legally purchase marijuana on New Year’s Day in any of the five boroughs.
Due to bureaucratic delays exacerbated by Andrew Cuomo’s resignation as governor in August, the schedule has been pushed back by months, and the city may not see many (or any) cannabis shops open their doors for sales until 2022.
Despite the uncertainty, the best online weed dispensary sector is preparing for the green light, and a new state regulatory body is working out the details.
Waiting to inhale: What Does the Future Hold for Recreational Marijuana?
Before the end of the year, every city, town, and hamlet in the state must decide whether to allow marijuana stores and/or consumption areas — i.e., a cannabis lounge — to operate inside their borders.
Municipalities have until December 31, 2021 to opt out of one or both of these options, according to the state. Municipalities that opt out will not get any tax money from recreational marijuana sales in other parts of the state.
According to Heather Trela, a marijuana policy expert at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, who has been tracking these decisions for all of New York’s roughly 1,500 cities and towns, at least 593 municipalities in the state have publicly said no to at least one option as of Tuesday, and at least 272 have publicly said yes to one or the other.
According to Trela, this figure is “a little more lenient” than in “certain other states,” where a higher number of localities have opted out of statewide legalization. Any New York location that does not opt out by New Year’s Eve will be automatically enrolled.
During a rally in Union Square on May 4, 2019, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams calls for the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
In New Jersey, about 70% of towns rejected all six types of marijuana licenses created by the state, and “similar patterns” were observed in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and other states, according to Trela’s recent blog post.
Jordan Isenstadt, a public relations veteran who works with numerous cannabis sector clients, was a member of the North Hempstead, L.I. Cannabis Task Force while it examined whether to opt in or out (it’s out). He urged municipalities like his to accept marijuana retail establishments in a recent op-ed in the New York Daily News.
Many municipal leaders are leaning toward “no” due to a lack of state advice or laws on how sales will work, he claimed.
“A lot of communities are saying no right now because of the timing, because we don’t have definitive laws, because there aren’t [cannabis license] applications accessible now,” he said. “They’re not even sure what they’re signing up for.”
Isenstadt pointed out that the opt-out option only applies to dispensaries and on-site consumption, not to “every other license category,” such as cultivation, delivery, processing, and manufacturing.
Any municipality that fails to submit a decision is automatically opted in, and this cannot be changed. However, if leaders choose to opt out, they will be able to do so again starting next year.
New York City is not one of the cities that has opted out. A spokeswoman for City Hall, Mitch Schwartz, confirmed that both cannabis establishment options will be available in the five boroughs.
I live in New York City. When will I be able to legally purchase marijuana?
You’ll just have to wait a little longer. Experts predict that majority of the state will not see marijuana retail stores until late 2022 or early 2023.
Because, despite the fact that the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act provided all New Yorkers the legal right to use, smoke, or possess less than 3 ounces of marijuana, the state has yet to issue any licenses to those who will supply, ship, and sell legal cannabis to clients.
Cultivators, processors, dispensaries, deliverers, and operators of “on-site consumption,” such as a cannabis bar or lounge, will be among the 11 categories of licenses available to build that pot supply chain.
The newly created Office of Cannabis Management, or OCM, a state regulatory agency created by MRTA, will eventually grant those permits. But it’s unclear how or when those certifications will be created.
A five-member Cannabis Control Board, which will function as the OCM’s oversight body, will make those decisions.
However, in four sessions held between October and December, the control board has yet to resolve any license issues.
At a Crain’s New York Business discussion last week, Tremaine Wright, a former Brooklyn Assembly member and now the board’s head, said the CCB will unveil recreational marijuana legislation between January and March 2022.
“We’re going to keep ramping up our staffing, writing regulations, and hoping to roll them out in the coming year,” she said.
Look to Cuomo’s scandal-plagued past year if you want to cast blame for the hold-up, Trela added.
“Because no one was assigned to the Office of Cannabis Management, it got off to a late start.” “Governor Cuomo did not appoint any of the officials,” she stated. “That had to wait till Governor Hochul arrived.”
A prospective delay in sales until 2023, according to Pilar DeJesus, a cannabis advocate and educator in East Harlem, does not sit well with some “because people want to get started,” she said. The halt, on the other hand, could be a blessing in disguise for her.
She explained that opening a dispensary or consumption site requires time, money, and legal, branding, and security knowledge that many people in lower-income regions may lack.
“Unfortunately,” she continued, “my neighborhood is still not entirely equipped.”
You have a few (legal) options if you can’t wait:
The medical marijuana program in the state is up and running, thanks to the original ten cannabis suppliers who were previously licensed to do so. When the CCB initially met, one of the first things it did was widen the certification procedure for patients and allow medical marijuana users to grow more plants at home.
If you travel near the Canadian border, you’ll soon be able to buy retail cannabis upstate. The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe wants to be the first in New York to award retail marijuana sales permits. The SRMT has awarded provisional cultivation permits and anticipates granting retail licenses “in early 2022,” according to a recent news release. Native American tribes in the state may build their own laws around the weed law.
Just because it’s still officially illegal to sell marijuana in New York doesn’t mean people aren’t doing it. Uncle Budd’s, a mobile service based in Harlem, sells marijuana goods in exchange for “donations.” For a “membership fee,” the Empire Cannabis Club in Chelsea provides a tailored cannabis concierge service.
Uncle Budd’s co-owner Johnny Walters expressed his delight at being able to hire young people from the community and “earn a nice income without going to jail.”
“I adore it.” “I believe I will be able to leave something to my grandkids and children,” he told THE CITY. “It was supposed to be lawful.” A lot of people went to jail and served their sentences.”
What will the cannabis shops look like?
This is a place that thrives on creativity. And some of the stores that have already opened in anticipation of the transition hint at how vibrant the grassy environment might be.
Paint Puff “N” Peace made its premiere in East Harlem in September, with celebrity sponsorships from Nick Cannon and Fat Joe.
Some existing medical cannabis shops, like as MedMen’s retail presence in Bryant Park or Curaleaf’s Forest Hills facility, may be able to take advantage of a hybrid medical-recreation option with a health-clinic vibe.
Isenstadt, a public relations veteran, represents Beak and Skiff, a Finger Lakes apple orchard aiming to get a license to convert part of its land to marijuana cultivation and on-site consumption “to be a cannabis attraction,” he said.
Happy Munkey, a long-running Manhattan-based underground cannabis club, is now getting in on the act, with two sold-out parties this summer where visitors received weed items like as pre-rolled joints.
Isn’t the purpose of law to assist persons who have been injured by criminalization?
In a few essential areas, New York’s law seeks to correct the wrongs of marijuana prohibition.
First, New York’s court system will automatically delete the records of at least 150,000 people with prior marijuana-related convictions, including 19 people who were in state jail on now-decriminalized crimes.
This is in addition to the 160,000 convictions that were overturned after a 2019 law decriminalized marijuana possession of three ounces or less.
Second, the Office of Cannabis Management aims to grant 50% of licenses to “social and economic justice applicants” when it issues them.
Those eligible are “individuals who have lived in communities disproportionally impacted by the War on Drugs,” as decided by the Cannabis Control Board, as well as minority- and women-owned companies and distressed farmers, according to the OCM.
“They keep calling it social equity, but it’s supposed to be reparations,” said Harlem advocate DeJesus. “People of color and Latinos have suffered the most. When it comes to getting licenses, they should be given first priority.”
DeJesus appreciates the safeguards, but is concerned that white business owners may take advantage of her or her neighbors. Investors have approached her out of the blue, asking if she would be a social equity candidate to help fund their cannabis business idea.
“I was like, ‘This is so bizarre.'” she explained. “This isn’t how I form alliances.”
By way of a yet-to-be-established New York State Community Reinvestment Grant Fund, 40 percent of the tax revenue earned by recreational cannabis sales must go toward aiding communities most damaged during the “War on Drugs” era.
The fund will be handled by a 13-member state Cannabis Advisory Board, which must include persons with prior drug offenses and those who have been incarcerated, among other groups.
If all goes according to plan, Trela believes New York’s social justice initiative “may be one of the more progressive programs in the country.” But, as she pointed out, the devil is in the details, and results have been uneven in other states.
“Getting into the marijuana market costs a lot of money, and there’s still federal illegality, which makes it difficult to secure business loans and other forms of finance,” she added.