With the passage of Friday’s deadline for New York municipalities to opt out of allowing marijuana retailers and consumption sites in their jurisdictions, hundreds of cities, towns and villages across the state will allow cannabis businesses to operate.
However, there are still a significant number of areas where cannabis commerce won’t be immediately permitted, with one list from the Rockefeller Institute counting 642 dispensary opt-outs and 733 consumption site opt-outs as of Sunday.
But while the institute’s dashboard is regularly updated, it notes that it “does not represent real-time, official information on municipalities’ opt-out decisions.”
Municipalities that don’t proactively move to ban the businesses on at least a temporary basis will default to an indefinite opt-in.
To that end, it’s important to note that the numbers on opt-outs doesn’t necessarily reflect a local government’s position on marijuana legalization overall. As in New Jersey, where a majority of cities have initially chosen not to permit retailers following the reform implementation, some New York municipalities have simply decided to opt-out for now ahead of the deadline so that they have more time to prepare and craft local rules.
“The big takeaway for me is how frequently the lack of state guidelines was cited by municipalities that chose to opt out,” Heather Trela, who has tracked local cannabis decisions for the Rockefeller Institute, told Marijuana Moment. “Which potentially leaves the door open for some to opt in the future?”
“We will continue to follow up with municipalities directly to hopefully get more info, especially from towns and villages that don’t have a website,” she said.
It’s also the case that while dispensaries and social consumption sites can be locally banned in New York, other cannabis business license types are exempt from the opt-out option, including cultivators and delivery services.
Because the implementation process to allow retailers has been drawn out, one GOP senator said he wanted to give local jurisdictions another year to decide whether they will opt out of allowing marijuana businesses to operate in their area—a proposal that advocates said was unnecessary and would create undue complications for the industry. It did not advance in the legislature.
As the state prepares to launch the first retail marijuana shops, the law signed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) already permits adults 21 and older to possess and publicly consume cannabis. And other lawmakers are working to build upon the legalization policy.
For example, a New York senator filed a bill last month to make it so that gay, lesbian and bisexual people can qualify as social equity applicants under the state’s marijuana law.
Sen. Jeremy Cooney (D) introduced the legislation, shortly after filing a separate bill to include transgender and non-binary people in the cannabis social equity program. He’s also behind other recent marijuana reform proposals related to cannabis business tax benefits and licensing.
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In July, Cooney filed a bill to create a provisional marijuana licensing category so that farmers could begin cultivating and selling cannabis ahead of the formal rollout of the adult-use program.
Cooney is also sponsoring a newly filed bill to allow licensed cannabis companies to deduct certain business expenses on their state tax returns.
Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), who replaced Cuomo after he resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal, has repeatedly emphasized her interest in efficiently implementing the legalization law.
At a recent event, she touted the fact that she had quickly made regulatory appointments that had been delayed under her predecessor. “I believe there’s thousands and thousands of jobs” that could be created in the new industry, the governor said.
Meanwhile, New York’s Cannabis Control Board (CCB) held its first meeting in October, a key step toward implementing the state’s adult-use marijuana program.
Members of the board, who were appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, announced that medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed to sell flower cannabis products to qualified patients. The $50 registration fee for patients and caregivers was also permanently waived.
In November, regulators also approved rules for the state’s cannabinoid hemp program, notably clarifying that flower from the crop can be sold but delta-8 THC products are currently prohibited from being marketed.
The state comptroller recently projected that New York stands to eventually generate $245 million in annual marijuana revenue, which they say will help offset losses from declining tobacco sales.
For the first year of cannabis sales, the state is expected to see just $20 million in tax and fee collections. That will be part of an estimated $26.7 billion in new revenues that New York is expected to generate in fiscal year 2021-2022 under a budget that the legislature passed in April.
The state Department of Labor separately announced in recent guidance that New York employers are no longer allowed to drug test most workers for marijuana.
Meanwhile, a New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to establish an institute to research the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
Another state legislator filed legislation last month to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for medical purposes and establish facilities where the psychedelic could be grown and administered to patients.