There are still many uncertainties about the New York cannabis licensing process, but state officials from the Office of Cannabis Management (CMO) filled some blanks at a meeting of the Fredonia Cannabis Advisory Committee last week. .
Phillip Rumsey, OCM’s intergovernmental outreach manager, and Pascale Bernard, its deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, made a presentation and answered questions from the committee. The panel was initiated by Fredonia trustee Jon Espersen in response to the people’s decision to opt for the state-regulated legal sale of cannabis.
“What we’re really asking for is grace, because none of us have ever done it before.” said Bernard.
Ramsey explained that while the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA) passed in 2021 offers nine categories of licenses, the state has further expanded the options. In February, it approved a stand-alone conditional licensing system for growers, with the goal of helping existing New York cannabis farmers enter the nearby market and keep out of out-of-state giant distributors. Also in April, it began a program to offer conditional dispensary licenses. However, it is only for people with experience in owning a related business and with a cannabis-related offense in their history or that of a family member.
Cannabis will be taxed according to your THC count, rather than weight. THC is basically the main compound that a cannabis user gets “high”. Edible items will be taxed at 3 cents per milligram of THC; the cannabis flower will face a tax of 5 cents per milligram; and for concentrates, it will be 8 cents a milligram.
There will also be a special 9% tax added by the state and a 4% tax that will go to local municipalities.
Proceeds will, of course, go to a Cannabis Revenue Fund. Thus, 40% will be distributed to education funding, 40% to a community fund of reinvestment grants for places disproportionately affected by the cannabis ban and 20% to a public fund of Cannabis Education and Drug Treatment
Rumsey said the license setup “It aims to create multiple market entry points.” The state wants to make sure of the big corporate concerns “I can’t go in and occupy the whole cannabis ecosystem right now.”
State officials provided much more information on the legalization of cannabis.
¯ Bernard said, while the state will decide where the dispensaries will go, it is up to the entrepreneurs to apply for the licenses. That is, if no one wants to put a dispensary in a certain area, the state will not force the issue.
there are not “blood alcohol test” for drugs, but the state will pay for the training of local experts in cannabis recognition.
¯ It is not yet possible to apply for any of the original nine MRTA licenses, as the regulations are not ready. Rumsey said that while conditional licenses are expected to exceed 200, there could be up to 4,000 of the usual MRTA licenses. However, he said “It is difficult to set a specific time period on when the regulations will be implemented.”
There will be no limit to MRTA licenses. “We want to give ourselves the ability to adjust to market fluctuations,” said Rumsey. “We don’t want to create a Starbucks effect with dispensaries.”
Bernard said New York officials are trying to avoid perceived mistakes in other states’ cannabis legalization processes. They don’t want to move too fast or too slow.
¯ Clarification of zoning issues is underway, Rumsey said. “You can’t have a stained building or something,” he assured the public.
¯ Susan Parker, a member of the cannabis committee, a Chautauqua county lawmaker representing Fredonia, wondered how many dispensaries the state could be looking at for an area the size of Dunkirk and Fredonia. Rumsey said that while there are still no clear answers, “Population seems to be an element of our analysis.”
Bernard used an analogy: a community of 200 people would not have five hardware stores. He added that the state does not want dispensaries to become hot spots in the communities.
¯ Espersen asked if the excess cannabis dispensaries in the nearby Seneca Indian Nation would discourage the placement of a local dispensary.
“They are sovereign territories and the CMO has as much jurisdiction over them as we have over Canada.” said Rumsey. As such, he said “I would be very surprised” if the cannabis licensing board counted for those and “Communities essentially punished for it.”