A New York senator pushes to give local jurisdictions another year to decide whether they will opt-out of permitting cannabis businesses to operate in their area– a proposal that advocates say is unnecessary and would create undue complications for the industry. This would be a detriment to marijuana users all over the state if they can’t get their medication to garnish their rolling papers. Currently, under the adult-use legalization law that then-Governor, Andrew Cuomo signed in March, municipalities must determine whether they will opt-out of permitting cannabis retailers or social consumption sites by December 31, 2021. Senator George Borrello introduced legislation on Friday, September 10, that would push that deadline back one year.
Borello argues that the delay is necessary because Cuomo failed to make key regulatory appointments to oversee the market on time before resigning amid a sexual harassment scandal. His successor, newly inaugurated Governor Kathy Hochul, has since nominated two of four regulatory seats she’s been tasked with filling, both of whom were confirmed by the Senate last week. One will lead the state’s Office of Cannabis Management, while the other will chair the Cannabis Control Board. Hochul’s remaining two appointments to the board will not be subject to Senate confirmation.
The legislature was also tasked with taking two appointments for the board. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins announced their picks this week. Borrello isn’t satisfied with the latest developments, however. He said that local officials who he’s met with have expressed “frustration at the lack of information available on what a legalized market will look like” and need additional time. In a press release, he said, “Local elected officials are being asked to make important decisions with zero information.”
He continued, “It is unfair of the state to maintain the original deadline when the implementation of the law is at least six months behind.” Even if the governor and legislature immediately confirmed the necessary appointments, Borrello said, “the timeline that was projected in March is no longer feasible.” The senator said, “No one benefits by forcing municipalities to make a hasty decision when they still have so many questions about how sales will be regulated.” Borrello continued, “Extending the opt-out period is a common-sense step.
I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this effort to give communities added time to make these important decisions.” However, advocates aren’t buying the argument. While two more regulatory appointments still need to be made, they say that local lawmakers have clear guidance written into the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation act (MRTA) that should effectively guide their decision-making on whether to accept marijuana businesses by the initial December 31st deadline. New York state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Melissa Moore, told Marijuana Moment, “The MRTA is clear about the parameters and principles that will guide New York’s adult-use program.”
She continued, “There is no reason to further delay being able to get the program up and running and no excuse for blocking New Yorkers who to establish cannabis-related small businesses from being able to move forward knowing their municipality will indeed permit their business to operate.” Moore added, “As with other businesses, jurisdictions still have a great degree of control over the detail of business operation–such as time, place, and manner.” She concluded, “Legalization of adult-use cannabis has broad support across the state, with one recent poll even showing that people who were opposed to legalization responded that they would likely visit a dispensary following legalization.” Although there are powers that be that are trying to regress the progress of marijuana reform, it’s great to see supporters push back on these recently attempted adjustments.