Cannabis growers and retailers will be able to start applying for licenses to sell recreational cannabis products at select venues and public events in the coming days after the state Cannabis Control Board voted Wednesday to expand where farmers can legally sell their products, officials said.
The change is an effort to help farmers with excess cannabis sell their supplies before they expire. Few pharmacies are open statewide, but many are heavily stocked with last season’s cannabis flowers and products.
“It takes about four-and-a-half to six months for a licensee to open a store from issuance of a license,” said John Kagia, director of policy at the State Cannabis Authority. “That delay has left fewer stores open than needed to meet the very strong demand in the state and to process the products produced by cannabis growers.”
The three licensed growers will be required to partner with licensed adult retailers to facilitate sales at these events, which the state has dubbed the Cannabis Grower Showcase. The requirement for three licensed growers to participate is intended to limit illegal sales.
Events can only be held with municipal approval before the Cannabis Authority reviews and issues permits for local sales.
“This will allow producers to showcase their products with consumers who are ready to purchase through our retail partners at the event. We also see it as a great opportunity to make legal cannabis available to consumers in areas of the state that are not currently served or underserved by retail pharmacies,” said Kagia.
Brittany Carbon, Director of the New York Cannabis Association, is a licensed grower in the South Tier of Trikora Farms. She said she was happy with the change and said it would alleviate many farmers’ concerns, but that selling at the event alone would not solve the problem.
“This is really a Band-Aid, isn’t it? It’s a stopgap for these issues,” she said Wednesday.
The event also connects retailers with more farmers and allows customers to meet the people who grow their marijuana products.
But Carbone says there is no substitute for opening more stores to balance supply and demand. This is the model that cannabis growers want.
“It’s the kind of business model that we’ve contracted, we’re building the infrastructure for, and we’re ready to embrace that,” she explained.
At the Cannabis Control Board meeting on Wednesday, member Jennifer Gilbert Jenkins argued that the OCM will issue detailed guidance and regulations to ensure farmers have priority participation at events that allow cannabis sales.
“What we don’t want to see is processor brands with all these different products that processor licenses can produce, all different kinds of varieties, compared to flowers and pre-rolls that we are restricted to as growers,” Carbone said.
Kagia said the ministry will finalize the guidance on Wednesday and start accepting permit applications by the end of the week.
The latest state budget includes $5 million to hire 37 additional OCM staff to help crack down on the hundreds of pop-up dispensaries illegally selling marijuana statewide.
Officials said Wednesday that 10 people are in the hiring process. While that continues, the amount of enforcement work and its location remain unknown. The ministry is budgeted to have a total of 64 full-time executive staff. OCM is actively hiring for these positions and candidates are in the hiring process, according to a spokeswoman for Kathy Hochul’s office.
“While we continue to build a very aggressive retail environment, we are working to expand enforcement actions against unlicensed and unregulated businesses statewide,” Kagia said.
Illegal Stores OCM held several penalty hearings and a decision was made in the first round ($10,000 fine), but nothing has been collected yet. The DTF has not yet evaluated penalties for cannabis.
During the public comment period at the conference, Rep. Harvey Epstein pleaded with board members to hire enforcement staff and close the doors of illegal stores more quickly.
Cagia said officials from the OCM and the state Department of Taxes and Finance have raided 53 illegal dispensaries across the state over the past few months and seized more than $20 million worth of products. He added that the product may be tested but not sold.
Many fines start at $10,000 per day and go up to $20,000 depending on the conduct. OCM has held several penalties hearings and made several decisions on the first $10,000 fine, but the state has yet to collect the money. So far, the Department of Taxation and Finance has not evaluated penalties for cannabis, according to the governor’s office.
Officials at the state cannabis regulators and their commissions are trying to make up for lost time as a federal lawsuit that blocked the opening of legal dispensaries for months in half the state has been settled.
The board also nearly doubled the issuance of adult retail licenses on Wednesday to increase the number of pharmacies in the state as New York’s industry gradually moves online.
An additional 212 conditional adult retail pharmacy licenses were granted to people or relatives of New Yorkers with marijuana convictions, bringing the total number of licenses granted to 463 out of nearly 1,000 program applicants.
The commission had issued 251 licenses by Wednesday. Only 20 legal recreational dispensaries currently open in New York State sell state-regulated marijuana, representing about 7 percent of licensees.
A license has been finalized to open Vladimir Bautista’s Happy Mankey shop in Midtown Manhattan in the next few months.
He started consuming and selling cannabis as a preteen growing up in Harlem. He said he was arrested at least 22 times for cannabis sales and spent several years in prison before cannabis was legalized.
“Now people like me can build wealth across generations, improve communities, and most importantly improve entire industries,” Bautista said. “We are able to bring all this experience and knowledge and consumers on the planet to the legal market.”
Bautista argues that imposing fines is the best way to deter progress in cracking down on illegal retailers.
“Me, my partner, and my team had over 100 years of traditional experience before we legalized it,” Bautista said. “Honestly, I’m not against legacy people. My problem is 80-90% of the time. [illegal] Shop is not legacy. They were opportunists who didn’t give a damn about cannabis until it was legalized two years ago, just exploiting loopholes. ”
The State Dormitory Administration is tasked with helping licensed retailers secure locations to open pharmacies, and business owners must submit to the agency for approval. Several CAURD license holders said they had not been asked by DASNY for guidance or assistance in finding suitable pharmacy locations. Licensed growers say they have heard similar problems from aspiring retailers as well, delaying the start of operations.
Board members announced Wednesday that a public search tool will soon go live on DASNY’s website to allow CAURD licensees to receive pre-proximity assessments of potential retail pharmacy locations.
DASNY has not provided details on when the tool will be available.
The Cannabis Control Board also voted to approve emergency regulations to protect cannabis products sold in the state and prevent the sale of high-potency cannabis products at bodegas and other businesses not regulated by the Cannabis Control Board. Hemp products contain up to 0.3% THC, the compound in marijuana that makes you feel high and intoxicated.