When Will Adult-Use Cannabis Be Sold In New York?
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New York Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes estimates that the first legal sales will begin between 18 months and two years after the signing of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), which occurred on March 31, 2021. That means that the first legal sales would start between September 2022 and March 2023.
In order for those sales to happen, New York must first establish a regulated marketplace. That’s because under the MRTA, a license is required to produce, process, distribute, deliver, or sell cannabis. Those licenses will be issued by the Cannabis Control Board (the Board) with significant input from the Office of Cannabis Management (the Office).
The website for the Office launched on April 2. The next likely step for the Office will be the appointment of an executive director. The executive director will be nominated by the Governor with advice and consent from the state legislature. In addition, the five members of the Board must be selected. The MRTA provides that the Governor shall appoint three members, with New York Senate and Assembly each appointing one of the remaining two members. Peoples-Stokes estimates that the Board will be “set and running” before the legislative session ends in June 2021, according to a report from The City.
Once the positions on the Board and the Office are full, these regulators will need to establish robust rules under the MRTA, governing adult-use cannabis, medical cannabis, and hemp in the State of New York. This will include establishing an application process and rules establishing a criteria for granting licenses.
The New York State Administrative Procedures Act requires that government agencies notify the public sixty days before adding, amending, or repealing rules. Agencies must also provide 60 days notice before holding a public hearing on a proposed rule. These time periods are called “notice and comment” periods and, as the name suggests, they are required so that the public can provide comment on proposed government regulations.
Assuming that New York cannabis regulators are appointed in June and issue proposed rules that same month, the earliest possible date for the first public hearings will be in August 2021. If that happens, then it will likely be another two months before final rules are issued in October 2021.
Rule making will likely occur on a rolling basis, meaning that proposed rules on one topic will likely be issued while other proposed rules are pending or after other rules are finalized. It is likely that New York cannabis regulators will prioritize rules and policies regarding license applications because at the minimum, in order for legal sales to occur under the MRTA, licenses must be issued first.
Assuming that Peoples-Stokes is correct in her estimate regarding Board appointments, and assuming that regulators do in fact start rule-making with a focus on applications, the Board is likely to start accepting applications sometime in late 2021 or early 2022. That would give the Board the ability to start issuing licenses in 2022, which, in theory, could allow licensed growers to start planting in Spring of 2022 for a harvest in Fall 2022. That first harvest could make its way into licensed retail stores and allow for the first adult-use cannabis sales to occur in September 2022, 18 months from the signing of MRTA.
Daniel Shortt is a corporate and regulatory attorney based in Seattle, Washington who works extensively with entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry.