New York Cannabis Control Board

The New York Cannabis Control Board (CCB) met for the first time this week and began implementing legalization. However, medical homegrow implementation is delayed.

NYC National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Executive Director Ryan Lepore noted that because the appointment of the CCB was delayed, regulations regarding medical homegrow were also delayed.

He said they’re “kind of in a tough place playing catch up.”

The issue was the CCB officials had to be approved by the legislature. However, New York’s legislature did not do so by the time it adjourned for the year at the end of June.

While cannabis legalization was signed into law by former Governor Andrew Cuomo in the spring, he did not move forward on implementation before resigning in disgrace this summer. New York’s new Governor Kathy Hochul has been eager to make a clean break with the past. Thus, she called the New York legislature back into session this summer and urged them to approve the appointments of CCB officials.

Lepore noted the regulations would determine the details of medical homegrow. He said that a patient registry for recommendations would likely house a medical homegrow registration as well.

They still must decide whether or not give to allow any patient to grow or create qualifications.

“There’s a lot of things and questions that still have to be answered,” Lepore said.

He said there’s also a question of how much one could grow.

“Every moment we have wasted has resulted in the furtherance of a public health issue,” Lepore added.

New York Cannabis Control Board Gets Down to Business

At its first meeting, the Board appointed Jason Starr as the Chief Equity Officer and the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) senior staff. The CCB will oversee the OCM.

As Chief Equity Officer, Starr is supposed to establish a “robust social and economic equity program to prioritize the licensing of members of communities disproportionally impacted by the War on Drugs, paving the way for their participation in the new cannabis industry.”

“Mr. Starr … has the knowledge and expertise needed to ensure equity and justice are infused in the fabric of this new agency and the industry it is constructing,” said Board Chair Tremaine Wright. “We are moving full speed ahead with establishing an inclusive cannabis industry that operates safely, promotes public health, and repairs the harms of the past.”

Starr previously worked as the Director of the Long Island Chapter of the NY Civil Liberties Union and served as an Assistant Counsel for Civil Rights under Cuomo, where he spearheaded the 2019 cannabis decriminalization bill.

“They made good appointments in for the most part,” Lepore said. “They still have a lot of things … that need to be addressed.”

The Board expanded the types of clinical providers who can certify medical cannabis patients to any practitioner licensed to prescribe controlled substances in New York, including dentists, podiatrists, and midwives.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) has yet to enact a similar provision from the Jake Honig Act of 2019.

The CCB also increased the amount of approved medical cannabis that can be dispensed to a certified patient or designated caregiver from a 30-day supply to a 60-day supply. They also waived the $50 patient and caregiver registration fee.

Furthermore, they streamlined approval for hospitals, residential facilities, and schools to become designated caregiver facilities to hold and dispense products for patients.

“These changes will assist certified patients and designated caregivers to acquire and administer approved medical cannabis products. They represent the first of many changes to come for the State’s medical cannabis program as a result of the passage of the MRTA (legalization bill),” Wright said.

The OCM has also released guidance allowing existing dispensaries to sell whole flower to patients as soon as the State’s quality assurance testing approves those products. Previously, only ground flower was available.

“Sale of whole flower is an important step toward patient access to and affordability of medical cannabis,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair and Compassionate Care Act Sponsor Richard Gottfried (D).

Lepore said the “energy in the Board was pretty good, calling it a “stark difference from what we were experiencing previously.

He said there previously was a great deal of wariness that the appointments would be puppets of former Governor Cuomo, who many cannabis advocates believe was not in favor of a social-equity-centric approach to legalization.

CCB Appointees

Before the CCB met, the New York State Senate approved Hochul’s appointment of Ms. Tremaine Wright as Chair of the New York Cannabis Control Board (CCB) and Christopher Alexander as Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). Hochul also appointed ReubenMcDaniel, III, and Jessica Garcia to the Board. The legislature appointed Adam Perry and Jen Metzger to the Board.

“One of my top priorities is to finally get New York’s cannabis industry up and running, this has been long overdue,” Hochul said. “I know they will do a tremendous job of outlining and implementing regulations that are safe, fair, and transparent, and that recognize the need to remedy the impact that prohibition has had on communities of color.”

Tremaine Wright was previously serving as the first Director of the Department of Financial Services (DFS) Office of Financial Inclusion and Empowerment. She is also a former member Assemblywoman from Brooklyn.

Chris Alexander works as the Government Relations and Policy Manager for Village, the largest black Multi-State Operator (MSO) cannabis corporation. He previously was a Policy Coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), a leader in the fight for cannabis legalization.

Alexander was the architect of the cannabis legalization campaign and lead drafter of the adult-use legalization bill in New York.

Lepore said Alexander was an amazing appointment as OCM Executive Director since he worked on the bill directly and advised the State Senate Democrats.

Reuben R. McDaniel III was the President and CEO of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY). McDaniel founded an investment advisory firm, where he managed more than $50 million in investment portfolios and business assets for various professionals.

Jessica García was Assistant to the President of the Retail, Wholesale Department Store Union (RWDSU), UFCW, a national labor union representing workers along the food supply chain, and some in non-food retail and healthcare.

Adam Perry of the Hodgson Russ law firm was selected for the New York Cannabis Control Board by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D).

Former State Senator Jen Metzger, a Democrat, was appointed to the Board by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D).

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Lepore said. He noted they “need all the help they can get.”

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