The last meeting of the Cannabis Control Board drew stinging criticism from the very people New York’s adult recreational cannabis marketplace was supposed to help.
There were grievances aired as well as deep emotional trauma on display during the public meeting, including a fear of bankruptcy.
According to the executive director of the state Office of Cannabis Management Chris Alexander, the comments were the culmination of months of frustration.
“(But) we are in this fight with them (stakeholders),” Alexander told Capital Tonight.
Alexander is looking ahead with optimism. On Wednesday, the 60-day application window opens for cultivation, processing, distribution, retail and micro licenses.
But CAURD licensees, cultivators and farmers remain frustrated by an active court injunction preventing businesses from opening.
These critics have asked for a one-year delay of the entry of medical marijuana companies (Registered Organizations) into the adult-use market.
In response, Alexander said that was a decision made by the Cannabis Control Board.
“The board decided not to maintain that delay of the retail companies, but to be fair and clear, we are two years into this now, when the medical operators who are the existing operators here in the state, have not yet transitioned to the adult-use market,” he said.
Registered Organizations are another stakeholder group that will be permitted to begin submitting their required documentation for licenses starting Wednesday.
“They’ve got to submit…community engagement plans, environmental sustainability plans, things that they didn’t have to do before to operate, but needs to happen now,” Alexander explained. “We’ll be opening up the portal for their submissions tomorrow with every other license type.”
But more licensees won’t help farmers who are currently harvesting their cannabis crop. Ryan McCall, senior associate and deputy cannabis practice chair at Tully Rinckey, said that farmers remain the most marginalized class of stakeholder in New York’s cannabis rollout.
“They were the first group that was really able to get their operations going and get their product to market. Unfortunately, they were kind of sold a bag of goods, saying ‘hey listen, we’re going to have a hundred dispensaries for you to sell to by this time this year.’ I think even dating back to this year, Governor Hochul said they wanted 20 dispensaries open by 2022. Here we are getting close to the end of 2023 and we’re still in the low 20s as far as dispensaries go,” McCall said.
Alexander told Capital Tonight that relief for farmers is being discussed by the state.
“It’s something that we’re absolutely exploring. We do have the ability to provide relief to our entrepreneurs…,” he said. “We are pretty squeezed right now due to the litigation — the injunction that’s holding up the expansion of the retail footprint.”
There is also a bipartisan coalition of 70 legislators supporting relief for farmers (S.7295A/A.7375A). Sponsors of the so-called “Cannabis Crop Rescue Act” have sent a letter to the governor urging her to “provide a lifeline to struggling cannabis farmers”.