New York Governor Kathy Hochul today signed legislation creating a new Conditional Adult-Use Cannabis Cultivator license, establishing a pathway for existing hemp farmers in the state to apply for a conditional license to grow cannabis in the 2022 growing season for the forthcoming adult-use cannabis market. Under the law, conditionally licensed cannabis farmers must meet certain requirements, including safe, sustainable and environmentally friendly cultivation practices, participation in a social equity mentorship program, and engagement in a labor peace agreement with a bona fide labor organization.
Governor Hochul Signs Conditional Marijuana Growers Law (AKA the Conditional Cannabis Cultivator Law)
"I am proud to sign this bill, which positions New York's farmers to be the first to grow cannabis and jumpstart the safe, equitable and inclusive new industry we are building," Governor Hochul said. "New York State will continue to lead the way in delivering on our commitment to bring economic opportunity and growth to every New Yorker in every corner of our great state."
As per the language in the law, the measure for Conditional Cannabis Cultivation will also establish a Social Equity Mentorship Program to provide emerging social and economic equity cultivators and processors, including BIPOC growers, minority- and women-owned business owners, and service-disabled veterans with a pathway to licensure through invaluable knowledge gained by partnering with experienced hemp cultivators and processors. The law will additionally create an Environmental Sustainability Program to educate conditional licensees on best practices for ecologically-sound cultivation.
Conditional Cannabis Cultivator Law's Sponsors Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Michelle Hinchey on New Legislation
This legislation comes at a pivotal time in New York’s path to a fully regulated cannabis market, as members of the Cannabis Control Board have been touting the potential of the Governor’s $200 million fund for social equity and the possibilities to develop a state craft cannabis industry. On Saturday February 19, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, with support from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, announced the formation of EquityPAC, a new political action committee to support legislation and progressive candidates united around the pillars of cannabis, education, and environmental resiliency.
Of the new Conditional Cannabis Cultivator legislation, Assembly Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes said, "Last year, after many years of fighting, we finally enacted the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, and are beginning to undo the devastating impacts over ninety years of unequal enforcement of marijuana prohibition had on too many lives and communities. MRTA ensures that the legal adult-use market will be centered on equity and economic justice for communities of color and individuals that have been harmed most by the War on Drugs in the State of New York. With the passage of this bill, we have the opportunity to create a responsible start to the adult-use cannabis industry by authorizing temporary conditional cultivator and processor licenses to current New York hemp farmers. This authority will help secure enough safe, regulated, and environmentally conscious cannabis products to meet the demand of the adult-use cannabis market when retail dispensaries open. Importantly, this legislation calls for a Social Equity Mentorship Program, which will create a viable and inclusive path for social and economic equity partners interested in cannabis cultivation and processing to gain invaluable knowledge and experience in this emerging industry. The temporary conditional licenses authorized by this bill will ultimately help realize the vision and goals of the MRTA.''
State Senator Michelle Hinchey, who worked with Peoples-Stokes to craft and sponsor the initial legislation for the Conditional Cannabis Cultivation bill, looks forward to its ability to fast-track cannabis and hemp production in New York state: "Today is an exciting day in New York as our bill to give New York farmers the ability to start the cannabis market is signed into law. The MRTA set the foundation for our state to build a truly circular cannabis economy that puts New York farmers and small business dispensaries at the center of growth and production, and with the signing of this bill, farmers can now put seeds in the ground to ensure we meet the demand of this burgeoning industry. I thank Governor Hochul for her quick action on this bill so that we can get to work building the most forward-thinking and socially-equitable cannabis industry in the country."
What Are Other New York State Officials Saying About the Conditional Cannabis Cultivator Law?
State Senator Liz Krueger
State Senator Liz Krueger has been leading the charge on cannabis since the emergence of the industry. A primary author of the MRTA, she noted of the new law, "This legislation is an important step in ensuring an adequate supply of cannabis for the adult-use market while prioritizing New York farmers, supporting social and economic equity mentorship programs. and encouraging environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. I commend the leadership of the Governor and the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), as well as Senator Hinchey and Assembly Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes, in advancing this critical program."
Assemblymember Donna Lupardo
Assemblymember Donna Lupardo was one of the first government officials in New York to introduce a bill on hemp research back in 2014. When President Barack Obama initially approved Section 7606 of the Agriculture Act to legalize the growth of hemp for research by state governments and educational institutions, Lupardo and State Senator Tom O’Mara immediately moved to make such an opportunity possible for New Yorkers. Now, seeing how far we’ve come with the Conditional Cannabis Cultivation law, Lupardo commented, "I'd like to thank the Governor and my legislative colleagues for supporting this important legislation for NY's hemp farmers. These early risk takers certainly have the knowledge and expertise needed to jump start the adult-use cannabis market. They are also in the best position to mentor a new, diverse group of farmers and entrepreneurs wanting to enter this industry."
Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright
Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright said, "I am thankful to the Governor and Legislature for supporting our efforts to build a safe, accessible and stable New York Cannabis industry. This law places New York's farmers first in line to grow cannabis, the timing of which is critical to our efforts to roll out the adult use program. With this bill, we're continuing to put equity and inclusion at the forefront of the new cannabis industry we're building."
Cannabis Control Board Member Jen Metzger
Member of the NYS Cannabis Control Board and former Senate Agriculture Chair Jen Metzger said, "This legislation aligns the rollout of the adult-use program with the natural growing season so that products made with sun-grown cannabis can be available when dispensaries open their doors. I thank my former colleagues in the Legislature and Governor Hochul for their swift action, and I look forward to working with my Board colleagues to develop a conditional licensing program that promotes sustainable farming practices and meaningful social equity mentorship opportunities."
Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander
Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander said, "I can't thank Governor Hochul and the Legislature enough for providing us with the tools to make up for lost time while also keeping equity and inclusion at the center of the new cannabis industry we're building in New York. With this bill, we're putting New York farmers, not big corporations, at the forefront of our industry while protecting public health by delivering safely grown products. We are immediately getting to work implementing the bill so that our farmers can start planting this spring."
What's Next for New York's Office of Cannabis Management?
With a conditional adult-use cannabis cultivation license, farmers can grow outdoors or in a greenhouse for up to two years from the issuance of the license. It also allows them to manufacture and distribute cannabis flower products without holding an adult-use processor or distributor license, until June 1, 2023. Cultivators are limited to one acre (43,560 square feet) of flowering canopy outdoors or 25,000 square feet in a greenhouse and can use up to 20 artificial lights. They can also split between outdoor and greenhouse grows with a maximum total canopy of 30,000 square feet as long as greenhouse flowering canopy remains under 20,000 square feet.
The OCM will be developing a license application process and opening the program as soon as possible. To qualify for an Adult-Use Cannabis Conditional Cultivator License, an applicant must have been an authorized industrial hemp research partner for the Department of Agriculture and Markets, cultivating hemp for its non-intoxicating cannabinoid content for at least two of the past four years and in good standing as of December 31, 2021, when the research program ended.
Holders of the license must also participate in a social equity mentorship program where they provide training in cannabis cultivation and processing for social and economic equity partners, preparing them for potential roles in the industry. Growers will also have to meet sustainability requirements to ensure the cannabis is grown in an environmentally conscientious way.
New York's Office of Cannabis Management Achievements to Date
Governor Hochul’s action today builds on the quick work she and the OCM have undertaken to bring the new cannabis industry to life in New York. In January, the Governor's Executive Budget proposed a $200 million program that will use industry licensing fees and revenue to provide support to eligible applicants from communities impacted by the overcriminalization of cannabis during its prohibition. The Governor and the Legislature also moved quickly to appoint the Cannabis Control Board and OCM leadership within weeks of the start of her administration. Since the Board held its first meeting on October 5, the OCM has:
· Launched the Cannabinoid Hemp Program, putting in place protections for the public and provisions to help New York's CBD businesses compete;
· Vastly expanded access to the Medical Cannabis Program, including empowering health care providers to determine if medical cannabis can help their patients, lowering costs by permanently waiving patient fees and allowing the sale of whole flower, and growing the list of providers who can certify patients;
· Launched its first wave of community outreach events with 11 regional events, including one in Spanish, that's already engaged more than 5,000 attendees;
· Developed a pipeline of talented professionals to join the OCM's growing team and built the infrastructure to support the office.
We eagerly anticipate the new law’s impact on New York’s evolution as a cannabis industry hub.
Stay tuned for more updates on New York’s cannabis program, including our exclusive conversation with CCB Chair Tremaine Wright in our Black History Month print edition, featuring Wiz Khalifa! Buy your advance copy today!
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For more information on the Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board, visit cannabis.ny.gov.