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New York Greenlights Marijuana Home Cultivation Amid Regulatory Shake-Up

New York’s recreational cannabis market continues to suffer growing pains. With few legitimate cannabis businesses approved for licenses and an influx of illegal pot shops dotting nearly every corner, New York’s adult-use cannabis marketplace has been off to a rough start. To help correct course, New York regulators recently approved draft rules that allow home cultivation of marijuana. They’ve also signed off on several more cannabis business licenses, all to jump-start the legitimate cannabis industry in New York.

Are the recent moves too little, too late? Or is the pick-up in approvals and rule changes just what the doctor ordered to invigorate a stalling and lackluster legal cannabis rollout?

New York, New Rules

On the heels of biting criticism from New York Governor Kathy Hochul, criticizing everything from the rollout of New York’s cannabis program to the oversight of the Office of Cannabis Management, the Cannabis Control Board voted to fast-track several resolutions to expand cannabis operations in the state. First, the group approved over 100 new licenses for retailers, cultivators, processors, and distributors. The group also approved two additional cannabis research licenses under a separate resolution.

These new licenses are unique because they are the first non-conditional licenses issued in New York, meaning the applicants did not need to meet specific criteria to apply. Initially, license applicants needed to meet certain eligibility criteria outlined under the state’s Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries program. The program prioritized businesses owned and operated by justice-involved individuals and was supposed to be a way to invest in communities once disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition. Chris Alexander, the Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management, says the recent approval of nearly 100 new, non-conditional cannabis business licenses is a “milestone” for the program.

Although those awarded cannabis business licenses did not need to meet CAURD eligibility criteria to apply, regulators say 85 percent of new retail licenses issued went to women and minority-owned businesses. Sixty percent of the microbusiness licenses went to Social and Economic Equity applicants, and 15 percent got issued to those participating in the state’s Cannabis Compliance Training & Mentorship Program.

Additionally, regulators laid the ground rules for home-grown marijuana. As currently proposed, the new draft regulation would allow New York adults to grow up to six cannabis plants for personal use. However, only three plants can be mature at one time. A home with multiple adults could grow a maximum of 12 plants. Those growing their marijuana would also be able to possess up to five pounds of cannabis derived from their home-grown plants. The regulations also stipulate how home-grown marijuana must be stored and steps to be taken when marijuana odors turn into a “nuisance to neighbors.”

The new home-growing regulations go through a 60-day public comment period before being finalized.

Too Little, Too Late?

New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul has not been shy about vocalizing her disappointment with the state’s recreational marijuana rollout. Lately, Gov. Hochul has been hurling sharp criticism at the recreational marijuana program, New York’s legalization laws, and those in charge of recreational marijuana oversight. Earlier in the month, Gov. Hochul mentioned that she was considering potential leadership changes within the state’s marijuana regulatory boards because of the slow implementation of the legalized cannabis marketplace and licensing issues.

The painfully slow implementation of the legal cannabis marketplace and issuing of legitimate cannabis business licenses allowed an illegal marijuana market to thrive. In many areas of New York, you can find unregulated and unlicensed marijuana shops on nearly every street corner. The governor recently claimed that she was “fed up” with the proliferation of these illegal shops, and the delayed implementation of the legal cannabis marketplace was to blame.

Despite her recent criticism, Governor Hochul calls the approval of over 100 new business licenses a win for New York and says it is a good start that will help local economies across the state.

Unfortunately, not everyone is thrilled with how fast the needle is moving. Co-founder of the New York Cannabis Retail Association, Jayson Tantalo, says he is wondering if he should stop trying to get his cannabis business license. He has applied for a CAURD license and has yet to get approval. He recently applied for a general license and still hasn’t been able to get his business off the ground.

Joe Rossi, the Cannabis Practice Group Leader at Park Strategies, said he was thrilled for those who finally received licenses. Yet, he can’t help but notice the lack of transparency in the Office of Cannabis Management’s lottery and queuing system. He says the process is leaving many applicants feeling confused and frustrated. Those angry with the process are still waiting for a legitimate business license, while others profit by skipping the process and operating illegal shops. They think the governor may be onto something and that board leadership needs a shake-up.  

Making Progress Little by Little

Although there are legitimate concerns about the recreational marijuana market in New York, many people are applauding the new home-grow rules and the issuing of new business licenses. It is a small but powerful step that seeks to right the ship’s course and get New York’s adult-use marketplace back on the right track. Governor Hochul, state officials, and cannabis board members hope to continue to work together to create more solutions and move New York’s budding cannabis industry in a more productive direction.

If you are interested in sharing your feedback on the new proposed regulations for adult-use home cultivation, you can read more about the regulatory process and direct your comments to regulations@ocm.ny.gov or mail them to the New York State Office of Cannabis Management.

Find more stories about New York’s troubled history with recreational cannabis on Cannabutter Digest. You can also find other unique cannabis content featuring newsrecipes, and product reviews.


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