With the stroke of a pen, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in March officially legalized adult marijuana use. Six months later, however, growers, retailers and processors have not been able to apply for licenses, and a timeline for when it will begin is not yet known.
Cuomo’s successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, did take a pivotal step this month when she made a pair of appointments to the state’s Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board, which is tasked with oversight of the state agency.
Another uncertainty is an opt-out provision that was baked into the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, giving municipalities the opportunity to prohibit retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses. It remains uncertain how many communities across the state will opt out.
In a news release announcing her appointments, Hochul said she has been committed to advancing the MRTA. The process, she said, has been “long overdue.”
“We’re going to make up for lost time with the Senate confirmation of Tremaine Wright as chair of the Cannabis Control Board and Christopher Alexander as executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management.”
Wright’s resume includes a role as a former state assemblywoman and a current director of the statewide Office of Financial Inclusion and Empowerment. Alexander’s roles have included work with the New York State Democratic Party, a legislative aide to Congress and role with the Drug Policy Alliance.
“These two individuals bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to their new roles, and I know they will do a tremendous job of outlining and implementing regulations that are safe, fair and transparent,” Hochul said in her Sept. 1 announcement of the appointments.
A number of other appointees are still pending. Hochul still has to make two additional appointments, neither requiring confirmation from the state Senate, which was required for the onboarding of Wright and Alexander.
The state Assembly and Senate are tasked with filling the balance of the seats within the office and on the control board.
Recreational sale of marijuana is to begin at an as-yet undetermined date in 2022, though there have been calls to extend the start date out further, into 2023, to give municipalities more time to determine whether opting out is a desired pathway. The current opt-out deadline is Dec. 31.
State Sen. George Borrello, R-Irving, has announced plans to introduce legislation that would extend the opt-out deadline.
In a news release explaining the possible legislation, Borrello said he has heard from municipal officials within his jurisdiction who do not have a comprehensive understanding of how a legalized market would operate.
“Local elected officials are being asked to make important decisions with zero information,” Borrello said. “It is unfair of the state to maintain the original deadline when implementation of the law is at least six months behind.”
When Cuomo signed the MRTA into law on March 31, a number of provisions did take effect immediately. For example, adults can possess up to three ounces of marijuana or 24 grams of concentrated cannabis. The provisions are statewide and not subject to the opt-out clause.
This article was originally posted on When will cannabis licenses be issued in New York State? It’s hazy.