Cannabis regulatory boards taking shape; Parts of original MRTA expanded

Legislative Gazette file photo
Activists stage a rally in the state Capitol in an attempt to legalize recreational adult0use cannabis in New York. Now that the law has passed, Gov. Kathy Hochul has appointed members to the Cannabis Control Board to begin the implementation process.

On March 31, 2021, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation legalizing the use of recreational marijuana and automatically expunging criminal records related to marijuana that are no longer illegal under the new laws.

Under the law, adults 21 and older are able to consume marijuana wherever smoking and vaping is allowed. They also can legally possess up to three ounces of cannabis flower and 24 grams of concentrated cannabis, including tinctures, concentrated oils and edible products.

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (S.854-A.1248-a) has resulted in a decrease in arrests and interactions with police, but has also stalled in the summer months in terms of appointing members to implement the new laws. After a six month delay in implementing the new laws, current Gov. Kathy Hochul has begun appointing the governing bodies that will oversee regulations, enforcement and policies related to legal cannabis programs in New York.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Sept. 22 the appointment of two new members to the board of The Office of Cannabis Management, the entity in charge of creating the rules and regulations on marijuana, its legalization and all aspects underneath the legalization act. 

These two members are Reuben McDaniel III, the current CEO of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York and former Chair of the Atlanta Board of Education, as well as Jessica Garcia, a union worker and advocate for workers in the food supply chain and retail workers, currently serving as the assistant to the president of the Retail, Wholesale Department Store Union.

The five-member Cannabis Control Board has the power to issue licenses, “promulgate” regulations and appoint staff. 

The 13-member State Cannabis Advisory Board will include seven members appointed by the governor and three members each appointed by the Senate and Assembly. As of the beginning of October, none of these members have been announced to the public.

Under the MRTA, there is an administrative role of Executive Director of the OCM that must be appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. 

On Sept. 1, former Senate Associate Counsel Christopher Alexander, a lead drafter for the MRTA, was appointed for this position. 

Alexander will be responsible for the “day-to-day administration of the OCM and carry out any functions delegated to the executive director…” He is also required to appoint a deputy director for health and safety, an individual who would have to be a licensed health care practitioner.

Before licenses for growing, possessing and distribution can be issued, a number of tasks have to be completed, “…including appointing the Cannabis Control Board, issuing and adopting regulations, hiring and training OCM staff, and creating [the] a process for issuing, accepting and awarding licenses.” 

As of October 5, the CCB held its first meeting to hire senior staff members and appoint Jason Starr, a advocate and lawyer, as the Chief Equity Officer, the role in charge of ensuring communities disproportionately affected by the criminalization of marijuana have their members prioritized and made aware of the added benefits and support they receive in the licensing process.

At its first meeting, the Board expanded the types of eligible clinical providers that are able to certify patients to any practitioner who is licensed to prescribe controlled substances in New York state, including dentists, podiatrists, and midwives.

They also increased the amount of approved medical cannabis that may be dispensed to a certified patient or designated caregiver from a 30-day supply to a 60-day supply.

The board also permanently waived the patient and caregiver $50 registration fee and streamlined the approval for facilities such as hospitals, residential facilities, and schools to become designated caregiver facilities to hold and dispense products for patients.