The New York State Cannabis Control Board (CCB) has unexpectedly postponed its January meeting that was scheduled to discuss the rules on home growing and new license applications for the cannabis industry. The decision came as a surprise to many stakeholders who were eagerly waiting for the board to approve the proposed regulations and licenses.
Homegrown Regulations Delayed Again
One of the main agenda items for the CCB meeting was the proposed homegrown regulations that would allow anyone 21 or older to lawfully cultivate up to six cannabis plants for personal use. The draft regulations were released in December 2023 and were open for public comment until January 15, 2024. The CCB was expected to vote on the final regulations at the January meeting and publish them in the state register by February 1, 2024.
However, the postponement of the meeting means that the homegrown regulations will not be finalized in time for the upcoming growing season, which will be the fourth outdoor growing season since the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) was passed in 2021. The MRTA legalized the adult-use of cannabis in New York and established the CCB and the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) to regulate the industry.
The delay in the homegrown regulations is frustrating for many cannabis consumers and advocates who have been waiting for years to grow their own plants legally. The MRTA allows medical cannabis patients and their designated caregivers to grow up to six plants each since October 2022, but the same right has not been extended to recreational users yet.
Retail License Applications Stalled by Lawsuits
Another important agenda item for the CCB meeting was the review and approval of the adult-use license applications that have been submitted by various cannabis businesses and entrepreneurs. The CCB has the authority to issue licenses for cultivation, processing, distribution, retail, delivery, and consumption of cannabis in New York.
However, the licensing process has been hampered by several lawsuits filed by different groups and individuals who claim that the CCB and the OCM have violated the provisions of the MRTA or the state constitution. Some of the lawsuits allege that the CCB and the OCM have favored certain applicants over others based on their social equity status, prior cannabis convictions, or military service. Other lawsuits challenge the constitutionality of the MRTA itself or the allocation of cannabis tax revenue.
The CCB and the OCM have defended their actions and policies, saying that they are following the law and the intent of the MRTA, which is to create a diverse and inclusive cannabis industry that benefits the communities most harmed by the war on drugs. The CCB and the OCM have also argued that the lawsuits are delaying the launch of the adult-use market, which is expected to generate billions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs for New York.
In a statement released on Tuesday night, the OCM said that the CCB has decided to postpone the meeting to finalize the review of the license applications that are currently under consideration. The statement said that the CCB has a batch of licenses ready for approval, but there are many more that they want to get across the finish line to jumpstart the cannabis market in 2024. The statement also blamed the lawsuits for holding up the licenses, saying that they are filed by “corporate interests” who want to monopolize the industry.
Uncertainty and Disappointment for the Cannabis Industry
The sudden cancellation of the CCB meeting has caused uncertainty and disappointment for the cannabis industry and the public. Many cannabis businesses and entrepreneurs have invested a lot of time and money in preparing and submitting their license applications, hoping to be among the first to enter the lucrative market. Many cannabis consumers and advocates have been looking forward to growing their own plants or buying legal products from licensed retailers.
The CCB has not announced a new date for the meeting or given any indication of when the homegrown regulations and the license applications will be approved. The CCB is required by law to meet at least once a month, but it has the discretion to schedule or cancel its meetings as it sees fit. The CCB is composed of five members appointed by the governor and the legislative leaders. The current chair of the CCB is Tremaine Wright, a former assemblywoman and an attorney.
The CCB and the OCM have faced criticism for the slow and secretive implementation of the MRTA, which was signed into law by former Governor Andrew Cuomo in March 2021. The CCB and the OCM were not fully established until September 2021, when Governor Kathy Hochul appointed the remaining members and the executive director. The CCB and the OCM have since issued some regulations and guidance for the cannabis industry, but they have also faced several legal and logistical challenges.
The CCB and the OCM have said that they are working hard to launch the adult-use market as soon as possible, but they have not given a specific timeline or date. The MRTA does not set a deadline for the start of the sales, but it does require the CCB and the OCM to issue an annual report on the status and progress of the industry by March 31 of each year.