New York Officials Approve Marijuana Home Grow Rules

New York Officials Approve Marijuana Home Grow Rules

New York regulators have approved draft rules to allow for the home cultivation of recreational marijuana, and have signed off on more than 100 new cannabis business licenses that they hope will help the legal market overcome its “rocky start” this year.

Amid sharp criticism from the governor and state lawmakers over the protracted licensing process, the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) on Friday voted in favor of several resolutions to expand marijuana operations and lay out proposed home grow rules for adult consumers.

Regulators approved over 100 licenses for retailers, microbusinesses, cultivators, processors and distributors. Two cannabis research licenses were also granted under a separate resolution.

What makes this latest batch of licensing approvals unique is that they are the first non-conditional licenses, meaning applicants did not need to meet certain eligibility criteria under the state’s Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries (CAURD) program that prioritized justice-involved people.

“This moment has been a long time in the making,” Tremaine Wright, chair of CCB, said at Friday’s meeting. “We assure you it only represents the beginning. The office has been diligently working to prepare as many applications as possible for consideration, and the board will continue to approve additional licenses at future board meetings.”

However, Wright also recognized that “it has been a rocky start to 2024 for cannabis in New York State,” so regulators aimed to “tackle a number of the matters that we hope will help propel our industry forward.”

For the home cultivation regulations, which were developed by OCM and submitted to CCB for consideration, the approved resolution means that there will now be a 60-day public comment period before the rules are finalized.

As currently drafted, the regulations would allow adults to grow up to six plants for personal use, only three of which could be mature at one time. A residence with multiple adults could have a maximum of 12 plants, and people could possess up to five pounds of marijuana derived from the plants.

The rules also contain requirements on storing the plants and remediating any odors “if they become a nuisance to neighbors.”

CCB was previously scheduled to approve the home grow regulations and a significantly smaller number of adult-use licenses at a meeting last month, but that was abruptly cancelled, in part because Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) office intervened when it found out that regulators only planned to approve three additional licenses.

The governor went so far as to say earlier this month that she was eyeing potential leadership changes within the state’s marijuana regulatory apparatus because of the implementation issues.

Over recent weeks, Hochul has said she’s “very fed up” with the “disaster” of a delay that’s limited the number of regulated cannabis shops at the same time that illicit storefronts have proliferated.

On Friday, the governor celebrated the board’s issuance of non-conditional licenses.

“Adult-use cannabis is a growing industry in New York that will help local economies across the state,” she said. “The approval of over 100 licenses is a good start and provides individuals with the opportunity to apply for licensing to help drive up local economies around them.”

Meanwhile, the governor released a budget plan last month that calls for the elimination of a THC potency tax, aiming to reduce costs for consumers in a way that could make the regulated market more competitive against illicit operators.

Also, as New York works to expand the state’s marijuana market, a bill filed in the Assembly last month would empower individual municipal governments to shut down unlicensed cannabis businesses and seize their products.

Over a dozen new cannabis retailers opened in December alone following a settlement agreement lifting an injunction that had imposed a months-long licensing blockade.

Separately, the state’s Department of Labor in December published dozens of sample job descriptions for positions in the legal industry, which officials said are intended to help companies streamline hiring processes and allow prospective employees to assess their qualifications to work in various roles within the emerging cannabis industry.

Hochul, meanwhile, signed legislation in November that attempts to make it somewhat easier for financial institutions to work with state-licensed cannabis clients. She also signed a separate bill that’s meant to provide tax relief to New York City marijuana businesses that are currently blocked from making federal deductions under an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code known as 280E.

While Hochul signed an earlier budget bill in 2022 that included provisions allow state-level cannabis business tax deductions—a partial remedy to the ongoing federal issue—New York City has its own tax laws that weren’t affected by that change. The new measure is meant to fill that policy gap.

Hochul also recently vetoed legislation that would have allowed hemp seeds to be included in animal feed for pets, horses and camelids such as llamas and alpacas.

In September, 66 state lawmakers—about a third of the entire state legislature—also wrote to Hochul urging her to sign a bill that would allow licensed marijuana producers to sell products to tribal retailers. The plan would offer a release valve to hundreds of cannabis farmers who are currently sitting on surpluses but have no place to sell their products. In December, however, Hochul vetoed that bill.

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