New York Legalizes Adult-Use Cannabis

Michael Roche


On Wednesday, March 31, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to make New York the 15th state to legalize the production, sale, and use of cannabis. The final version of the bill came together quickly, following a reported deal late last week and passage by the legislature on Tuesday. This follows the legalization of medical-use marijuana more than half a decade ago and the subsequent de-criminalization in 2019.

The law establishes a new Cannabis Control Board to oversee the production and sale of cannabis throughout New York State. Over the coming months, the Cannabis Control Board and Office of Cannabis Management will be tasked with establishing the forms for all applications for cannabis licenses and promulgating regulations further governing the production, sale, and use of cannabis. 

Of particular note is the law’s stated objective of redressing past inequities, particularly in relation to the enforcement of New York’s now-defunct marijuana prohibition. This is accomplished through the creation of a Chief Equity Officer, who must be consulted in connection with regulations and in the creation of a plan to promote social and economic equity.

For municipalities that do not wish to allow cannabis dispensaries or on-site use facilities, there will be a short window of opportunity to opt out. We will be providing additional detail on this opt-out right in the coming days.

Businesses intending to produce or sell cannabis will need to obtain a license. As with the existing alcohol beverage licensing regime, licenses are split into multiple tiers (i.e., manufacturing, distribution, and retail), and licensees are prohibited from having an interest in both the retail and any other tier.

The law also eliminates the existing CBD and hemp pilot program. CBD and hemp processors will need to be licensed under the new law. Anyone holding an active research partnership agreement will be awarded a license if they are actively performing research and able to demonstrate compliance with the new laws. CBD retailers will also be required to obtain a license.

We are still some time away from having dispensaries where you can purchase your strain of choice, and some have predicted that we will not see retail sales until 2022. During that time, we will provide additional information about the new law and keep you apprised of updates as they happen.

If you would like more information on the legislation described above, please contact a member of our Cannabis practice group at 585.232.6500 or 716.853.1616.

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