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New York regulators have issued warnings to more than two dozen companies they believe are illegally selling unlicensed marijuana or exploiting a “donation” provision of the state’s cannabis law.

After former Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a bill to legalize adult use last year, adults 21 and older were immediately allowed to possess and publicly use cannabis , as well as offering marijuana to other adults as long as they weren’t. being compensated.

But as regulators scramble to set rules to allow licensed retailers, some companies are apparently taking advantage of the gray area by offering “free” cannabis giveaways to adult consumers who buy other legal products and services.

New York’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) said in a press release Tuesday that it has sent cease-and-desist letters to more than two dozen companies that allegedly take advantage of the gift or gift provision. illegally sell unlicensed cannabis.

These companies could lose future licensing opportunities and face fines if they continue the activity, the CMO said.

“We have an obligation to protect New Yorkers from known risks and to strengthen the foundations of the legal and regulated market we are building,” Cannabis Control Board (CCB) Chair Tremaine Wright said in a press release. . “We will achieve the goals of the MRTA to build an inclusive, fair and safe industry. Therefore, these offenders must cease their activity immediately or suffer the consequences.

“We want to make sure these operators fully understand the law and the consequences they face and now that these letters have been sent, we expect them to cease and desist from their activities – if they don’t. don’t, we will take action,” OCM chief executive Chris Alexander said.

“New York State is building a legal and regulated cannabis market that will ensure products are tested and safe for consumers while providing opportunities for members of communities most affected by the overcriminalization of prohibition. cannabis, and illegal operations compromise our ability to do so. We encourage New Yorkers not to participate in illicit sales where the products may not be safe and we will continue to work to ensure that New Yorkers have the a way to sell legally in the new industry.

Regulatory gray space is not unique to New York as it works to implement legalization.

Following voter approval of a legalization referendum in New Jersey, the state’s attorney general also issued warning letters to companies that were effectively circumventing state marijuana laws by “offering” cannabis in exchange for non-marijuana purchases such as cookies, brownies, and stickers.

The same regulatory dilemma is playing out in Washington, D.C., where voters approved a measure to legalize the possession, cultivation and gifting of marijuana in 2014 at the same time the jurisdiction was barred from using its tax dollars. local taxes to implement commercial sales due to a pending congressional amendment.

DC lawmakers held a joint hearing in November on a pair of bills to allow the legal sale of recreational marijuana and significantly expand the existing medical cannabis program in the nation’s capital if that jumper is lifted.

Back in New York, lawmakers introduced several proposals to build on the legalization law as the state prepares to approve retailers.

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Last week, for example, a New York senator introduced a bill that would promote recycling in the marijuana industry once retail sales officially kick off.

Senator Michelle Hinchey (D) is sponsoring the legislation, which would require cannabis stores to apply a $1 deposit for any marijuana product sold in single-use plastic containers and also reimburse consumers for those fees s they return the container.

The senator is also behind a separate bill introduced last year that would prioritize hemp-based packaging over synthetic plastics for marijuana products.

The recycling bill is identical to an Assembly version tabled by MP Patricia Fahy (D) last year.

Another New York senator separately introduced a bill in December to ensure that gay, lesbian and bisexual people can qualify as social equity candidates under the state’s marijuana law.

Senator Jeremy Cooney (D) introduced the legislation, shortly after introducing a separate bill to include transgender and non-binary people in the cannabis social equity agenda. He is also behind other recent marijuana reform proposals related to tax benefits and licensing for cannabis-related businesses.

In July, Cooney introduced a bill to create a category of provisional marijuana licenses so farmers can start growing and selling cannabis before the adult program officially rolls out.

Cooney is also sponsoring a newly filed bill to allow licensed cannabis companies to deduct certain business expenses on their tax returns.

Governor Kathy Hochul (D), who replaced Cuomo after he resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal, has repeatedly stressed her interest in effectively implementing the legalization law.

Hochul released a state-of-the-state book last month that called for the creation of a $200 million public-private fund to specifically help promote social equity in the booming market for marijuana in the state.

The governor said that although cannabis business licenses have yet to be approved since the law was legalized last year, the market is expected to generate billions of dollars and it is important to “create opportunities for all New Yorkers, especially those from historically marginalized communities.”

This proposal was also cited in Hochul’s executive budget, which was released last month. The budget also estimates that New York should generate more than $1.25 billion in marijuana tax revenue over the next six years.

The state Department of Labor separately announced in recent guidelines that employers in New York are no longer allowed to test most workers for marijuana.

Meanwhile, a New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to create an institute to research the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.

Another state legislator introduced legislation in December to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for medical use and establish facilities where the psychedelic could be grown and administered to patients.

Meanwhile, as New York prepares to launch its adult-use marijuana market, the state’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) last week announced a significant expansion of the existing medical cannabis program.

Now doctors will be able to make medical marijuana recommendations to people for any condition they think can be treated with cannabis, rather than relying on a list of specific eligible conditions.

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