New York Governor Kathy Hochul has voiced her dissatisfaction with the state’s Cannabis Control Board (CCB) for delaying the issuance of licenses for the legal cannabis market. The CCB, which was appointed by Hochul in September 2023, has not yet approved any of the applications submitted by prospective cannabis businesses.
Hochul wants to expedite the cannabis market launch
Hochul, who took office in August 2023 after the resignation of former Governor Andrew Cuomo, has made the legalization of adult-use cannabis one of her priorities. She signed a bill in May 2023 that gave the CCB and the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) more authority to regulate the cannabis industry and crack down on illegal operators. She also announced a plan in October 2023 to aggressively expand the legal cannabis market and create more opportunities for small businesses and social equity applicants.
However, the CCB has not met Hochul’s expectations in terms of speed and efficiency. The board, which consists of five members, has only held four meetings since its formation and has not voted on any of the rules or regulations needed to implement the cannabis law. The board also canceled its scheduled meeting on January 25, 2024, without providing any explanation or rescheduling date.
Hochul said she was “very fed up” with the CCB’s lack of progress and urged the board to act faster. She said she did not order the cancellation of the meeting, but expressed her frustration to the board members. She also said she was considering taking executive action to speed up the process, such as issuing emergency regulations or appointing a special adviser to oversee the cannabis program.
CCB faces challenges and criticisms
The CCB’s slow pace has been attributed to various factors, such as the complexity of the cannabis law, the lack of staff and resources, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the political pressure from different stakeholders. The board has also faced criticism from cannabis advocates, lawmakers, and industry groups for its lack of transparency, accountability, and diversity.
Some of the issues that the CCB has to address include:
- Setting the standards and criteria for licensing cannabis businesses, such as growers, processors, distributors, retailers, and delivery services.
- Determining the fees and taxes for the cannabis industry, as well as the allocation of the revenue for social equity and community reinvestment purposes.
- Establishing the rules and regulations for the quality, safety, and labeling of cannabis products, as well as the testing and tracking of cannabis plants and products.
- Developing the guidelines and programs for social equity and environmental justice applicants, who are supposed to receive 50% of the licenses and benefit from grants, loans, and technical assistance.
- Creating the framework and procedures for the expungement and resentencing of past cannabis convictions, as well as the prevention and treatment of cannabis misuse and abuse.
Cannabis market potential and impact
New York legalized adult-use cannabis in March 2023, becoming the 15th state to do so in the US. The cannabis law allows adults 21 and older to possess up to three ounces of cannabis and grow up to six plants at home. The law also aims to address the social and racial injustices caused by the prohibition and criminalization of cannabis, especially in communities of color.
According to some estimates, New York’s legal cannabis market could generate up to $4.2 billion in annual sales and $350 million in tax revenue by 2027. The market could also create or sustain thousands of jobs and boost the state’s economy. However, the market’s potential and impact depend largely on the timely and effective implementation of the cannabis law by the CCB and the OCM.