In January of 2021, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo called for the legalization of adult-use cannabis in his annual “State of the State” address. This proposal comes after a multi-year effort to regionally coordinate state cannabis policy with the governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. The goal of this coordination was to set out core principles for how best to regulate the cannabis and vaping industries to facilities stable, safe, and fair markets throughout the northeastern United States.
If enacted, the Governor’s proposal would create a new “Office of Cannabis Management” to oversee both the new adult-use program in New York State as well the existing medical and cannabinoid hemp programs. The aim is to have the new Office be informed by the State’s current medical and industrial hemp programs, and to use the lessons learned from existing adult-use programs that have been implemented in other states.
The proposed legislation also aims to ensure that communities that were disproportionally impacted by cannabis prohibition can benefit from the new legal markets. To achieve this goal, the Legislature is likely to consider ways to provide capital resources and technical assistance — i.e., financing options and “know-how” — to minority cannabis entrepreneurs. If such measures are adopted, they could help smaller businesses enter and compete in this emerging industry.
If the legalization proposal is ultimately passed, businesses would be wise to consult with experienced attorneys regarding the state resources available to new cannabis entrepreneurs. Professional guidance will be especially important given the Governor’s stated interest in establishing stringent quality and safety controls, and strictly regulate packaging, advertising, and testing of all cannabis products.
As support for adult-use legislation gains momentum in New York State, it is increasingly important for entrepreneurs, residents, and local municipalities to educate themselves about the various proposals and take steps to prepare for the adoption of a new state-wide program.
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