NYC NORML Issues Open Letter To Governor Cuomo Opposing Nomination of Executive Director of Cannabis Programs

NEW YORK: Interim Executive Director of NYC NORML Ryan Lepore issued the following open letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, detailing the advocacy group’s opposition to elevating Norman Birenbaum from Director of Cannabis Programs to Executive Director of the newly formed Office of Cannabis Management.

 

May 20th, 2021

We have recently learned of the intent to nominate New York’s current Director of Cannabis Programs, Norman Birenbaum to Executive Director of the incoming Office of Cannabis Management under our new Cannabis Law.  The legislative intent behind the legal passage of cannabis in New York will be abolished if this candidate is formally nominated and appointed into leadership roles of the incoming program, particularly  the role of Executive Director.

As a potential nominee for this integral position, Mr. Birenbaum’s regulatory history is plenteous with policymaking and regulations that are antithetical to the legislative intent of the “Marijuana Taxation & Regulation Act” (MRTA) passed into Law. Within his current position of New York’s Director of Cannabis Programs,  Mr. Birenbaum has repeatedly encouraged culturally insensitive policies into the proposed framework of New York’s incoming program and deployed tactics in his previous regulatory role that resulted in documentable public distrust and harm towards the existing patient community of that state. Many of his regulatory policies are widely known within the industry to encourage predatory practices, monopolization, and further systemic racism. Our role in New York demands attunement towards the diversity of New York State & our ambitious goals for social equity.

Examining Mr. Birenbaum’s tenure in Rhode Island revealed his history of aggressive tactics, including the use of law enforcement to carry out regulatory compliance, many of which are described as openly hostile to their vulnerable patient community. This is truly worrisome as one of the revered foundations of justice within our law’s intent is to break the pattern of re-criminalization of cannabis patients and consumers. It should also raise concern that he enacted additional policies in Rhode Island which resulted in patient privacy and HIPAA violations, legal issues, as well as protests and rallies against his leadership.   This track record of harmful regulatory strategies in a state of considerably smaller size and population stands as a stark warning about the potential impact of his leadership in a state as large and diverse culturally, economically, and racially as New York – we are the Empire State.

The MRTA provides an improved framework to ensure success in the context of justice and social equity. The magnitude of this landmark endeavor requires a candidate with not only experience on both of these priorities but also an open mind towards exploring new strategies in partnership with criminal justice and social equity experts. It is important to note that in 2017, Mr. Birenbaum was not chosen for the Executive Director role by Massachusetts’ Cannabis Control Commission for many of the misgivings mentioned (as well as having true integration in the already established cannabis community that another candidate already held). Research from the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission public meeting minutes underscores the hesitancy in approving this candidate who did not have the humility necessary to successfully run an ambitious Cannabis Program. Based on multiple conversations and the candidate’s demonstrated lack of concern, it‘s clear that he has not historically been amenable  to adopting social equity-focused provisions and even furthermore has been characterized as closed-minded towards ideas other than his own on this issue. This is all while holding zero credibility behind his lack of action behind implementing or supporting social equity parameters in the past.

Two years into his tenure, New York’s regulatory successes should be apparent to the wider community and indisputable to the industry, as seen in other state programs with policy changes within similar timeframes. He has no experience incorporating any policies that help communities of color or the legacy market transition into the legal framework. Instead, there is a demonstrated history of ignorance when it comes to the cannabis community and its already established marketplace. This becomes even more problematic because New York’s legacy market is debatably one of the largest in the nation, and insensitive regulation in other markets towards legacy transition have hindered the ability to maximize participation from its consumers and collect tax revenue for impactful social equity programs in other states.

Communities harmed and inhibited by prohibition are the core populations that the MRTA seeks to empower and transition. Having public trust from these constituencies who have been traditionally harmed by prohibition and are already integrated with the community, is essential to the successful execution of this groundbreaking legislation.  Public distrust of this suggested executive director will discourage engagement and recreate the same societal dilemmas the law seeks to resolve.

His appointment is an unnecessary liability towards New York’s cannabis industry leadership  and a regressive assault on true social progress. His leadership will quickly tarnish any positively construed legacy that we are collectively vested in implementing in our state. We swiftly urge the consideration of different candidates for the incoming leadership roles and ask the Governor to consider other appointments recommended by the activists and community stakeholders who supported passage of the MRTA. Instead of a controversial figure with a questionable record of leadership, we call upon the Governor to select a BIPOC or culturally competent candidate who understands the full context of prohibition and the ensuing need for social equity as the program’s Executive Director.

Sincerely,

Ryan Lepore

Interim Executive Director of NYC NORML

 

Columbia Care Brings Scale To New York Cannabis Program Through Acquisition Of One Of The Largest Operating Greenhouse Sites On East Coast

New site expands Columbia Care’s cultivation and production footprint by approximately 1M square feet; offers flexibility to scale with increasing market demand; supports potential use for future social equity partnerships and adult-use sales

 

NEW YORK: Columbia Care Inc. announced today it has acquired a 34-acre cultivation site in eastern Long Island, New York. The Company’s first harvest and sales from this property for the state’s medical marijuana program is expected in Q4 2021, pending regulatory approvals.

The Long Island location offers supplemental cultivation and manufacturing capacity for Columbia Care’s existing Rochester facility that has served New York’s more than 120,000 medical cannabis patients since 2015, to meet the demand of a growing medical market, which, subject to regulatory approval, will include a number of newly approved additional form factors, including flower, in 2021. The new site also allows the Company to diversify its operations and open opportunities to create potential social equity business partnerships; a dedicated, federally-licensed global medical cannabis manufacturing and research hub in Rochester; and support the company’s entrance into the state’s adult-use program.

This facility currently has approximately 740,000 square feet of operational greenhouse space, which the Company plans to acquire upon phase two of the transaction, with 200,000 square feet of incremental grow capacity, situated perfectly for both retail distribution to Columbia Care’s three NYC and Long Island dispensaries and wholesale distribution to the most densely populated metropolitan area in the United States. The property’s infrastructure is fully developed for industrial scale and throughput and is currently used for growing ornamental flowers. Additionally, the existing owners have previously planted and successfully harvested industrial hemp on-site.

“As a company whose roots are in New York, it has been incredibly important that we build a scalable, vertically-integrated operation in the state that not only delivers the very best quality and prices to our patients and partners today, but also ensures that we can continue to deliver on our mission to New Yorkers through future legal cannabis programs. This is a commitment to our patients, communities, regulators, elected officials and social equity partners that we are here for the long term and intend to be the leaders who define cannabis in New York State – made in New York, by New Yorkers for New Yorkers,” said Nicholas Vita, CEO of Columbia Care. “We are eager to see New York’s regulated market emerge as one of the top global cannabis markets, with some market size estimates exceeding $5B by 2025 and more than 75,000 jobs created by 2027. We intend to continue to invest in opportunities that support this growth for all.”

Columbia Care will pay a total purchase price of $42.5M, which includes $15.0M in cash and $27.5M in Columbia Care stock. The initial payment of $30.0M has been made. The remaining $12.5M in stock payment will follow in August 2021 upon completion of the second phase of the transaction.

Curved Papers & Dana Beal Offer NYC Pot Smokers Who Vaccinate “Joints For Jabs”

NEW YORK: Brooklyn born Curved Papers inventor Michael O’Malley has teamed up with long time New York City Yippie NORML Act Up pot activist Dana Beal to offer an NYC version of “Joints For Jabs,” which Edelstein first staged in D.C. earlier this Spring. Anyone with a vaccination card can get a free joint this afternoon in Union Square!

New York City is abuzz this Spring following the March 31st early morning si

gning of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, championed by Crstal Peoples-Stokes and in the Assembly, and Liz Krueger in the Senate. MRTA was the fruit of six years of leadership by these two women, The Drug Policy Alliance, NORML and many other ad hoc coalitions, including Curved Papers’ “Do The Right Thing, New York,” which featured Fab Five Freddy and Jerry Scyzer, who showed and really kick started a surge of energy that toppled years of entrenched corporate resistance by The Governor’s team to the popular view. With the help of House Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate President Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the government did its job. The final day of testimonies in favor of the MRTA was riveting and emotional.

Of course, we can’t really have full out live events yet, but we want to make this gesture to remind the cannabis community to keep working together with the Federal government to defeat the virus, and legalize at that level. We hope The President hears about it, so D.C. and New York were our best bets.

Getting vaccinated is something to believe in. Science. It’s an outdoor pop-up event on a Spring day. Pass by and say “high.” We’re masking up and staying socially distant and we strongly suggest that you don’t share joints! Even on this blessed day. Dana will be there to give you each your own, and he’ll be wearing gloves. Come on people now, get together, smartly.

We’re looking forward to having a normal NYC Cannabis Parade next year. Dana has been a part of it for decades as it grew from New York City to the global annual phenomenon in over 40 cities around the world that it is today. In recent years, Steve Bloom of celebstoner.com has taken a greater leadership role and taken the event to a new level. His musical background has made the rally end of the parade a real festival, featuring significant political speakers as well. We hope we’ll be able to do that kind of thing in the City again next Spring. Last year was different, and so will this year be different again. But we’re getting somewhere. In New York we are doing a good job.

This Summer, hopefully we can have a Summer of Love in New York City. The MRTA introduces equity and justice standards that are state-of-the-art and a model for the country. Diverse license application teams are receiving design and engineer support from Curved High Tech’s new CANNA CAD NY program.

Contact MIT Architecture grad Michael O’Malley for details. Innovation.

Curved Papers are easy to roll and easy to buy. Get a four pack on your phone! curvedpapers.com/shop/. Use coupon code 4202021 for 10% off and free shipping today!

NEW YORK: Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation Legalizing Adult-Use Cannabis

Legislation (S.854-A/A.1248-A) Establishes the Office of Cannabis Management; Expands New York’s Existing Medical Marijuana Program; Establishes a Licensing System; and Creates a Social and Economic Equity Program Encouraging Individuals Disproportionately Impacted by Cannabis Enforcement to Participate in Industry

Tax Collection Projected to Reach $350 Million Annually and Potentially Create 30,000 to 60,000 Jobs

NEW YORK:  Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation (S.854-A/A.1248-A) legalizing adult-use cannabis, fulfilling a key component of his 2021 State of the State agenda. The bill signing comes after the Governor, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced this past Sunday, March 28, that an agreement had been reached on the legislation. The bill establishes the Office of Cannabis Management to implement a comprehensive regulatory framework that covers medical, adult-use and cannabinoid hemp. The bill also expands New York State’s existing medical marijuana and cannabinoid hemp programs. The legislation provides licensing for marijuana producers, distributors, retailers, and other actors in the cannabis market, and creates a social and economic equity program to assist individuals disproportionately impacted by cannabis enforcement that want to participate in the industry.

The development of an adult-use cannabis industry in New York State under this legislation has the potential to create significant economic opportunities for New Yorkers and the State. Tax collections from the adult-use cannabis program are projected to reach $350 million annually. Additionally, there is the potential for this new industry to create 30,000 to 60,000 new jobs across the State.

“This is a historic day in New York – one that rights the wrongs of the past by putting an end to harsh prison sentences, embraces an industry that will grow the Empire State’s economy, and prioritizes marginalized communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits.” Governor Cuomo said. “This was one of my top priorities in this year’s State of the State agenda and I’m proud these comprehensive reforms address and balance the social equity, safety and economic impacts of legal adult-use cannabis. I thank both the Leader and the Speaker, and the tireless advocacy of so many for helping make today’s historic day possible.”

“Today, New York stepped up and took transformative action to end the prohibition of adult-use marijuana,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “This legislation is a momentous first step in addressing the racial disparities caused by the war on drugs that has plagued our state for too long. This effort was years in the making and we have finally achieved what many thought was impossible, a bill that legalizes marijuana while standing up for social equity, enhancing education and protecting public safety. I applaud Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes for their commitment and leadership on this issue.”

“Passage of this bill will mean not just legalizing marijuana, but also investing in education and our communities, and it brings to an end decades of disproportionately targeting people of color under state and federal drug laws,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. “I thank Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes for her years of advocacy and efforts to make this bill a reality. My colleagues and I knew it was important to do this the right way – in a way that would include those targeted and frequently excluded from the process. Now, this legal industry will create jobs across our state, including for those who have had their lives upended by years of unjust drug laws.”

“I’m extremely humbled, proud and honored to have passed the historic Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act with my partners in government Senator Liz Krueger and Governor Cuomo. This social justice initiative will provide equity to positively transform disenfranchised communities of color for the better,” said Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes. “I believe this bill can serve as a blue print for future states seeking inclusive cannabis legalization. I would be remiss not to thank all of my family, colleagues, advocates and supporters over 8 long years.”

The Governor has included legalizing adult-use cannabis in his last three budget proposals.

The New York State Cannabis/Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act contains the following provisions:

Establish the Office of Cannabis Management
The Office of Cannabis Management will be charged with enforcing a comprehensive regulatory framework governing medical, adult-use cannabinoid hemp. It will be governed by a five-member board, with three members appointed by the Governor and one appointment by each house. OCM will be an independent office operating as part of the New York State Liquor Authority.

Medical Cannabis
The legislation will allow people with a larger list of medical conditions to access medical marijuana, increase the number of caregivers allowed per patient, and permit home cultivation of medical cannabis for patients.

Adult-Use Cannabis
The legislation will create a two-tier licensing structure that will allow for a large range of producers by separating those growers and processors from also owning retail stores. The legislation creates licenses for producers and distributors, among other entities, and the legislation will implement strict quality control, public health and consumer protections. A social and economic equity program will facilitate individuals disproportionally impacted by cannabis enforcement, including creating a goal of 50% of licenses to go to a minority or woman owned business enterprise, or distressed farmers or service-disabled veterans to encourage participation in the industry.

The Bill implements a new cannabis tax structure that will replace a weight-based tax with a tax per mg of THC at the distributor level with different rates depending on final product type. The wholesale excise tax will be moved to the retail level with a 9 percent state excise tax. The local excise tax rate will be 4 percent of the retail price. Counties will receive 25% of the local retail tax revenue and 75 percent will go to the municipality.

Cannabinoid Hemp
The legislation permits the sale of hemp flower in the cannabinoid hemp program, and allows for smokeable forms only when adult use retail stores are operational.

Adult-Use Cannabis Tax Revenue
All cannabis taxes will be deposited in the New York state cannabis revenue fund. Revenue covers reasonable costs to administer the program and implement the law. The remaining funding will be split three ways:

  • 40 Percent to Education
  • 40 Percent to Community Grants Reinvestment Fund
  • 20 Percent to Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund

Municipal Opt-Out
Cities, towns, and villages may opt-out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses by passing a local law by December 31, 2021 or nine months after the effective date of the legislation. They cannot opt-out of adult-use legalization.

Traffic Safety
The New York State Department of Health will work with institutions of higher education to conduct a controlled research study designed to evaluate methodologies and technologies for the detection of cannabis-impaired driving. After completion of the research study, DOH may create and implement rules and regulations to approve and certify a test for the presence of cannabis in drivers.

The legislation includes additional funding for drug recognition experts and law enforcement to ensure safe roadways.

The use of cannabis by drivers will remain prohibited and will carry the same penalties as it does currently.

Personal Possession and Home Cultivation
The following conditions apply to growing cannabis at home and personal possession of cannabis outside the home:

  • Personal possession outside of the home: up to 3 ounces cannabis and 24 grams of cannabis concentrate
  • Home possession: amends limits of what is permitted in the home, which must be kept in a secure location away from children
  • Home grow: permitted under the bill subject to possession limits in 18 months after first adult-use sales begin for adult recreational use and subject to regulations of the Medical Program being promulgated no sooner than 6 months:
    • 3 mature plants and 3 immature plants for adults over 21
      • 6 mature plants and 6 immature plants maximum per household

Criminal Justice and Record Expungement
The cannabis penalty framework will be restructured to avoid the criminalization seen in prohibition. Reduced penalties will be implemented for possession and sale.

  • Creates automatic expungement or resentencing for anyone with a previous marijuana conviction that would now be legal under the law and provides necessary funding
  • Adds cannabis to the clean indoor air act which establishes a baseline on where cannabis can be smoked or vaped
  • Municipalities and local governments are permitted to make laws that are more restrictive than the CIAA. Contains various provisions to ensure that cannabis is treated as a lawful substance and to prevent discriminatory enforcement

Protections for the Use of Cannabis and Workplace Safety
Unlawful discrimination will be prohibited and workplace safety protections will be implemented.

Public Health and Education Campaign
OCM will establish a robust public health and education campaign and work with neighboring states and associations to coordinate actions and policies to protect regional health and safety.

This legislation builds on years of work to understand and decriminalize cannabis for adult use. In 2018, the Department of Health, under Governor Cuomo’s direction, conducted a multi-agency study, which concluded that the positive impacts of legalizing adult-use cannabis far outweighed the negatives. It also found that decades of cannabis prohibition have failed to achieve public health and safety goals and have led to unjust arrests and convictions particularly in communities of color.

In 2019, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to decriminalize the penalties for unlawful possession of marijuana. The legislation also put forth a process to expunge records for certain marijuana convictions. Later that year, the Governor spearheaded a multi-state summit to discuss paths towards legalization of adult-use cannabis that would ensure public health and safety and coordinate programs regionally to minimize the cross-border movement of cannabis products.

Acreage Announces Sale Of Florida Operations To Red White & Bloom Brands

NEW YORK:  Acreage Holdings, Inc. announced its subsidiary, High Street Capital Partners, LLC, has entered into a definitive agreement with Red White and Bloom Brands, Inc., pursuant to which the Buyer will purchase all of the issued and outstanding shares of common stock of Acreage Florida, Inc. for an aggregate purchase price of $60,000,000. Acreage Florida is licensed to operate medical marijuana dispensaries, a processing facility, and a cultivation facility in the state of Florida. The deal also includes the sale of property in Sanderson, Florida.

“The sale of our Florida operations is a significant step in our previously announced operating strategy to focus on those core markets that we believe will accelerate our path to profitability and position us for significant long-term growth and cash generation,” said Peter Caldini, Chief Executive Officer of Acreage Holdings. “The cash proceeds will significantly bolster our balance sheet and position us to accelerate our cultivation expansion projects and open additional dispensaries to support our growth into key adult-use cannabis states such as Illinois and New Jersey.”

Last summer, Acreage announced a focused core-market operating strategy in nine states in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. The Company currently has active operations and licenses in 13 states and continues to pursue divestitures of its remaining non-core state operations and licenses.

Deal Terms

Aggregate Purchase Price: $60,000,000 in cash, stock, and other cash considerations including:

  • An up-front cash payment of $5,000,000 upon execution of the definitive agreement.
  • An additional $20,000,000 in cash, $7,000,000 in the Buyer’s common stock, and $28,000,000 in promissory notes upon closing the transaction.

Acreage anticipates closing the transaction during the second quarter of 2021.

Curved Papers & Empire State NORML Kick Off ‘Do The Right Thing, New York’ PSA Campaign

NEW YORK: This week Curved Papers and the New York State Chapters of NORML kicked off Do The Right Thing, New York, a PSA marketing campaign designed to raise awareness and support  for The Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA), one of two competing bills to legalize adult use in what will be the sixteenth or seventeenth state to do so.

As part of the campaign, Curved Papers produced a 7-page primer called “Seven Points About Legalization In New York State 2021,” which explains with pictures, why the MRTA is vastly preferable for cannabis community members, the consumer, the industry and the general public.

“Not only does the MRTA better address core issues of concern to the citizenry across New York State, equity, justice, home grow and sustainability,” Michael O’Malley, Curved Papers Founder told MJNews, “the CRTA is actually a poor solution, and moves all these issues in the wrong direction, or perpetuates problems the MRTA solves.”

Curved Papers is a licensee of NORML, and supports NORML with a royalty on its NORML Curved Papers, made from 100% organic hemp.

Curved Papers was granted the first Corporate Social Responsibility Award at the first NYC NORML Awards in 2019 and takes that honor seriously. A New York company founded by a guy from Brooklyn, the time is now for our home state.

Curved Papers and MJBA share the concept of “cannafest destiny,” the green wave of legalization moving from the West to the East which is finally really crashing on our New York shores. Time to do the right thing, New York!

If you’re a New Yorker, please use this convenient tool to reach out to your representatives in the Senate and the Assembly, and to the Governor, and let them know you support equity, justice, home grow and sustainability. Pass the MRTA now!

DTRTNY will be sharing this link during live online events for the next four Mondays! This Monday join a WATCH PARTY ACTION, featuring “Grass Is Greener,” the seminal film by Fab Five Freddie, a New Yorker if there ever was one.

Governor Cuomo Announces 30-Day Amendments to Legislation Establishing Comprehensive Adult-Use Cannabis Program in New York

NEW YORK:  Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced 30-day amendments to the Governor’s proposal to establish a comprehensive adult-use cannabis program in New York. Specifically, these amendments will detail how the $100 Million in Social Equity funding will be allocated, enable the use of delivery services, and refine which criminal charges will be enforced as it relates to the improper sale of cannabis to further reduce the impact on communities hit hardest by the war on drugs.

“As we work to reimagine, rebuild and reopen New York, we’re taking every opportunity to address and correct decades of institutional wrongs to build back better than ever before,” Governor Cuomo said. “We know that you cannot overcome a problem without first admitting there is one. Our comprehensive approach to legalizing and regulating the adult-use cannabis market provides the opportunity to generate much-needed revenue, but it also enables us to directly support the communities most impacted by the war on drugs by creating equity and jobs at every level, in every community in our great state.”

Allocation of $100 Million Cannabis Social Equity Fund

Social and economic equity are the bedrock of Governor Cuomo’s proposal to legalize cannabis for adult-use and as part of that, the Governor’s proposal includes a $100 million dollar fund to help revitalize communities that have been most harmed by the war on drugs.

Through this fund, qualified community-based nonprofit organizations and local governments would apply for funding to support a number of different community revitalization efforts, including, but not limited to:

  • Job placement and skills services,
  • Adult education,
  • Mental health treatment,
  • Substance use disorder treatment,
  • Housing,
  • Financial literacy,
  • Community banking,
  • Nutrition services,
  • Services to address adverse childhood experiences,
  • Afterschool and child care services, system navigation services,
  • Legal services to address barriers to reentry, and
  • Linkages to medical care, women’s health services and other community-based supportive services

The grants from this program may also be used to further support the social and economic equity program.

Under the amended proposal, the Department of State would allocate the funding, through grants administered by Empire State Development Corporation, in collaboration with the departments of Labor and Health, as well as with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, and the offices of Addiction Services and Supports and Children and Family Services. Final allocations and administration of funding would also be contingent upon approval from the Division of the Budget.

Enabling the Use of Delivery Services

The legalization of cannabis is expected to play an important role in helping rebuild New York’s economy following the damaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, legalization is projected to create more than 60,000 new jobs, and spur $3.5 billion in economic activity while generating an estimated $350 million in tax revenue once fully implemented.

Cannabis legalization also has the potential to have a significant economic benefit on distressed areas in New York, providing employment opportunities for all levels of the workforce. As social and economic equity are the bedrock of Governor Cuomo’s proposal, delivery services offer a low-cost entry point into the industry, particularly in communities which have been especially impacted by the war on drugs.

Recognizing this, the Governor is amending his proposal to allow for the permitting of delivery services as a way to open up access to this new industry even further so more New Yorkers can participate as it grows. As part of this, local governments would have the opportunity to opt out from delivery services occurring within their jurisdiction.

Criminality of Improper Sales

When establishing a new product market as the Governor’s proposal does, there will inevitably be attempts by bad actors to skirt rules and commit fraud for their own financial gain. This makes it critically important to ensure that penalties are carefully calibrated to ensure that all those who wish to participate in this new market, are operating on the same level playing field.

Cannabis, however, adds another complicating factor to this dynamic – years of outdated policies stemming from the War on Drugs have disproportionately impacted communities of color. Already, New York has taken steps to decriminalize cannabis and as this new market is realized, and it’s critical that criminal penalties are thoughtfully assigned, as to ensure that the progress which has already been made, is not inadvertently reversed.

As such, under the Governor’s amended proposal, specific penalties will be reduced as follows:

  • Criminal sale in the third degree (sale to under 21 year old) will be made a class A misdemeanor
  • Criminal sale in the second degree (sale of over 16 ounces or 80 grams of concentrate) will be made a class E felony
  • Criminal sale in the first degree (sale of over 64 ounces or 320 grams of concentrate) will be made a class D felony

The Governor’s proposal builds on years of work to understand and decriminalize cannabis for adult use. In 2018, the Department of Health, under Governor Cuomo’s direction, conducted a multi-agency study which concluded that the positive impacts of legalizing adult-use cannabis far outweighed the negatives. It also found that decades of cannabis prohibition have failed to achieve public health and safety goals and have led to unjust arrests and convictions particularly in communities of color.

In 2019, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to decriminalize the penalties for unlawful possession of marijuana. The legislation also put forth a process to expunge records for certain marijuana convictions. Later that year, the Governor spearheaded a multi-state summit to discuss paths towards legalization of adult-use cannabis that would ensure public health and safety and coordinate programs regionally to minimize the cross-border movement of cannabis products.

Building on that important work, the Governor’s proposal reflects national standards and emerging best practices to promote responsible use, limiting the sale of cannabis products to adults 21 and over and establishing stringent quality and safety controls including strict regulation of the packaging, labeling, advertising, and testing of all cannabis products. Cannabis regulation also offers the opportunity to invest in research and direct resources to communities that have been most impacted by cannabis prohibition.

NY Governor Cuomo Announces Proposal To Legalize And Create An Equitable Adult-Use Cannabis Program As Part Of The 2021 State Of The State

Proposal to Create the new Office of Cannabis Management to Regulate State Medical and Adult-use Cannabis and Cannabinoid Hemp Programs

Equitable Market Structure to Invest in Individuals and Communities Disproportionately Impacted by Prohibition

NEW YORK: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a proposal to legalize and create a comprehensive system to oversee and regulate cannabis in New York as part of the 2021 State of the State. Under the Governor’s proposal, a new Office of Cannabis Management would be created to oversee the new adult-use program, as well as the State’s existing medical and cannabinoid hemp programs. Additionally, an equitable structure for the adult-use market will be created by offering licensing opportunities and assistance to entrepreneurs in communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. Once fully implemented, legalization is expected to generate more than $300 million in tax revenue.

“Not only will legalizing and regulating the adult-use cannabis market provide the opportunity to generate much-needed revenue, but it also allows us to directly support the individuals and communities that have been most harmed by decades of cannabis prohibition.”

“Despite the many challenges New York has faced amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also created a number of opportunities to correct longstanding wrongs and build New York back better than ever before,” Governor Cuomo said. “Not only will legalizing and regulating the adult-use cannabis market provide the opportunity to generate much-needed revenue, but it also allows us to directly support the individuals and communities that have been most harmed by decades of cannabis prohibition.”

The Governor’s proposal builds on years of work to understand and decriminalize cannabis for adult use. In 2018, the Department of Health, under Governor Cuomo’s direction, conducted a multi-agency study which concluded that the positive impacts of legalizing adult-use cannabis far outweighed the negatives. It also found that decades of cannabis prohibition have failed to achieve public health and safety goals and have led to unjust arrests and convictions particularly in communities of color.

In 2019, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to decriminalize the penalties for unlawful possession of marijuana. The legislation also put forth a process to expunge records for certain marijuana convictions. Later that year, the Governor spearheaded a multi-state summit to discuss paths towards legalization of adult-use cannabis that would ensure public health and safety and coordinate programs regionally to minimize the cross-border movement of cannabis products.

Building on that important work, the proposal reflects national standards and emerging best practices to promote responsible use, limiting the sale of cannabis products to adults 21 and over and establishing stringent quality and safety controls including strict regulation of the packaging, labeling, advertising, and testing of all cannabis products. Cannabis regulation also offers the opportunity to invest in research and direct resources to communities that have been most impacted by cannabis prohibition.

Governor Cuomo Announces Proposed Regulations For Cannabinoid Hemp Products

Department of Health’s Cannabinoid Hemp Program Will License Processors and Retailers and Set Quality Control Standards

NEW YORK:  Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the New York State Department of Health has filed proposed regulations to regulate cannabinoid hemp products in New York State. In accordance with legislation signed earlier this year by the Governor, the Department is creating a Cannabinoid Hemp Program. The Program will license both cannabinoid hemp processors and retailers and set quality control standards that all cannabinoid hemp products must meet.

“These regulations are the next step toward regulating the growing hemp industry in New York in a way that protects consumers and helps ensure the industry’s long-term viability,” said Governor Cuomo. “Establishing the State’s Cannabinoid Hemp Program to regulate production and sale of hemp and hemp extract will help protect both consumers and farmers.”

The Cannabinoid Hemp Program will organize and legitimize the cannabinoid market in New York State by creating a licensing framework for cannabinoid hemp processors and retailers, and by establishing basic manufacturing, packaging and labeling and laboratory testing standards. Currently, applications for cannabinoid hemp processing and retailing licenses are under development, and NYSDOH intends to make them available in early 2021.

In 2015, the Governor launched the Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot Program, supporting farmers and further boosting economic development in upstate New York. Since then, New York’s hemp program has expanded significantly, making New York one of the leading hemp producing states in the country, with more than 700 farmers and 100 manufacturers of hemp products. Hemp is a sustainable, carbon-sequestering crop that is capable of being transformed into hundreds of products including textiles, furniture, fuel, food, construction materials and personal care items.

Some hemp products that have been growing in popularity include cannabinoid hemp products such as Cannabidiol, or CBD, which can be found online or in retail stores throughout the state. While regulations exist at the federal level for the growth of hemp, there are currently no federal regulations for the processing and manufacturing of cannabinoid hemp products, resulting in the cannabinoid hemp marketplace lacking basic consumer protections that are common in similar industries. There are published reports of cannabinoid hemp products that do not contain any cannabinoids but contain unspecified or inconsistent levels of THC – the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant – or are contaminated with harmful toxins.

The proposed regulations fill this regulatory void and create a system allowing for the use of hemp-derived cannabinoids in certain foods, beverages, topicalsand dietary supplement products, provided regulatory requirements are satisfied. All cannabinoid hemp products must be manufactured using good manufacturing practices based on the end product’s intended use. The label must contain the total amount of cannabinoids in the product, number of cannabinoids per serving, a nutritional or supplement fact panel, information about whether the product contains THC and appropriate warnings stating the product is not intended for children, its use may cause the failure of a drug test, the product has not been evaluated by the FDA and if pregnant or nursing, to consult a healthcare provider before use.

Additionally, cannabinoid hemp products are required to be laboratory-tested before entering the market, with testing for their cannabinoid profile, heavy metals, microbial impurities, mycotoxins, pesticides and residual solvents. This information is required to be retrievable by the consumer in the form of a QR code or corresponding link on the product label. Retailers are prohibited from selling inhalable cannabinoid hemp products, such as vape products, to consumers under 21 years of age. Processors are prohibited from making claims suggesting the product will diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat or prevent disease.

New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “When you purchase a product, you should have confidence that what is stated on the label is actually in the product. With the increased production and use of cannabinoid hemp products, New York State could not wait for the federal government to act to institute basic consumer protections to protect the health and safety of New Yorkers.”

Senator Jen Metzger said, “These regulations will provide much-awaited certainty for the hemp industry and offer a tremendous opportunity for our farmers while ensuring that we have the standards consumers need for a safe and high-quality product. As the Senate sponsor of the bill that created the regulatory framework for hemp, I want to thank the Governor for his continued leadership to advance the hemp industry and move the regulatory process forward, and I urge New York farmers and all stakeholders to review the regulations and provide input during the 60-day comment period.”

Assembly Member Donna Lupardo said, “With these regulations, New York is creating a national model for consumer safety, requiring strict labeling and production standards. The inclusion of cannabinoid extracts in food and beverages will provide new economic opportunities for farmers, processors, manufacturers, and retailers throughout the state. I appreciate the Governor’s continued commitment to New York’s hemp industry and look forward to working with his administration as these regulations are finalized through the public comment period.”

For more information on New York’s Cannabinoid Hemp Program and to view the proposed regulations, please visit: https://health.ny.gov/regulations/hemp/.

NY Senator Schumer Calls On USDA To Halt Hemp Reg Implementations

Schumer: Amend Hemp Regulations And Let Budding Industry Take Flight In Upstate NY

NEW YORK:  After successfully pushing for an extended comment period to allow Upstate New York hemp farmers to share their concerns with the final rule, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to delay the issuance of a U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program final rule until 2022 and allow hemp growers and producers across the country and in Upstate New York to continue to operate under the 2014 Farm Bill pilot program regulations until that time. Schumer said with the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic across all sectors, implementing additional regulations would crush the budding hemp industry.

“When it comes to an industry as promising as industrial hemp in Upstate New York, the feds must do everything they can to nurture its potential. Regulating this rapidly-emerging industry is a must, but the timing of new regulations is important and the current economic crisis must be considered,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why today I’m urging USDA to delay their issuance of a final rule until 2022 so the hemp industry across the country and in Upstate New York has a chance to grow and create good-paying jobs at a time when jobs are needed the most. Delaying new regulations will help pull New York along in the recovery process as the nation deals with the impacts of the pandemic.”

Allan Gandelman, President of New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association said, “There are over 700 registered hemp farmers across New York who would be negatively affected by the USDA’s Interim Final Rule on hemp. The costs and bureaucracy of implementing the new rules as written create unnecessary financial burdens on farmers and our state agencies. The existing hemp pilot program has been sufficient in making sure farmers are complaint with all testing and public safety protocols. We would like to see the pilot program extended until 2022 and the USDA modify the program to let hemp become a widespread agricultural commodity like Congress intended by the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.”

Schumer explained, prior to the pandemic, the industrial hemp industry had begun to show significant growth in New York, adding a considerable number of good-paying jobs and bringing in significant revenue to the state, making it an indispensable crop in New York’s agricultural future. Operating under the full benefits of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp farmers have reported difficulty integrating the Interim Final Rules into their operations, Specifically, Schumer said, the cost of complying with the Rules has proven to be suffocating for the emerging industry. Compliance costs for reporting alone would be $17,363.40 according to USDA calculations, and testing would add over $700 per sample.

The senator said these costs are simply too high for the budding industry to shoulder at a time when New York and the entire country is experiencing an economic crisis. Additionally, Schumer noted, implementing the Interim Final Rules now, also requires states to alter their Pilot Program budgets to meet standards, something which states slammed with COVID-related issues simply cannot spare the time and resources for.

Schumer also pointed out in light of COVID concerns, the timing and testing outlined in the Interim Final Rules would likely push farmers to rush harvests and increase the number of people working in facilities at once, leading to higher risk of COVID transmission among workers. The senator says that delaying implementation until January 2022 and allowing states to continue operating under the 2014 Farm Bill will address these issues, protecting both the hemp industry in New York and farm workers from potential COVID spread.

Senator Schumer’s letter to USDA Secretary Perdue appears below:

Dear Secretary Perdue,

I write in regard to deep concerns that USDA’s U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program Interim Final Rules will hinder the advancement of the hemp industry and create significant compliance costs both for State Governments and producers. Despite these concerns being reflected in the numerous comments submitted on behalf of industry trade groups, businesses, and State Agriculture Departments during the extended public comment period, no significant changes were made. As you know, the 2018 Farm Bill removed federal regulatory restrictions from industrial hemp production, manufacturing, and sales with the intent of developing a new agricultural commodity for United States farmers. The timing of implementation of the Interim Final Rules, especially during the COVID crisis, will create extreme disruption in this nascent industry. I ask that you delay the issuance of a final rule until January 2022 and allow states to continue to operate under the 2014 Farm Bill pilot program authority until then.

In New York, the industrial hemp industry has started to grow significantly, with new farms and businesses emerging and existing ones expanding operations. This has brought considerably better paying jobs and revenue to Upstate New York, making industrial hemp a critical new part of the state’s agricultural future. However, as industrial hemp farmers and businesses explore the full benefits of the 2018 Farm Bill, they have experienced serious difficulty integrating the Interim Final Rules into their operations. Particularly in the current COVID climate, I see many farmers and processors in New York struggle with incorporating these changes into the existing state Pilot Programs. In a time when farmers and producers struggle with economic uncertainty, the implementation of the Interim Final Rules will create costs without the support of offsetting revenues. USDA calculated compliance costs for reporting alone of $17,363.40 with testing adding approximately an additional $714.50 per sample (see 7 CFR Part 990, 58537 and 58545).

These costs do not just impact businesses across the United States but also state budgets that must alter their Pilot Programs to meet the demands of the Interim Final Rules. With bandwidth completely consumed by COVID concerns, the state regulatory agencies cannot focus on implementation of the Interim Final Rules. At this point, only 19 states have approved plans in place and enforcement efforts will deal a significant economic blow to the industry.

Lastly, I have concerns that the Interim Final Rules will potentially create public health issues in our current COVID environment. As we move into harvest season, farmers will need to operate with as much certainty as possible but timing and testing requirements will likely create bottlenecks that will push farmers to rush harvests. The potential for greater numbers of people working in facilities to meet the rush may create opportunities for COVID to spread among farm workers.

The Interim Final Rules provide a first step in developing regulations for the hemp industry. The critiques from the comment period will provide USDA with areas to consider revisions that further encourage economic opportunity for farmers and producers. However, COVID creates hurdles for states and producers to comply with the Interim Final Rules. Under the circumstances, the Interim Final Rules will harm the very businesses we hoped to help with this new agricultural commodity. We can easily remedy this situation by delaying implementation until January 2022 and allow states to continue under the 2014 Farm Bill until then. This will allow USDA to address some of the more pressing regulatory critiques while giving states and producers additional time to come into compliance.

Once again, I appreciate your efforts to help establish guidelines to develop a thriving American hemp industry. Thank you for your attention to this important matter and please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Sincerely,