NY Cannabis Laws

The roll-out of cannabis laws in NY, by all accounts, has been a disaster. The lawsuits will not stop. It comes down to being too many cooks in the kitchen without a chef. There is zero leadership from the Governor’s office, and the state suffers the consequences.

There are thousands of illegal dispensaries not paying their taxes and importing products from other states, which is draining the legal dispensary market, including the farmers. Over 400 dispensary licenses have been approved in the state, with only 22 open. Unclear if the continuation of giving out the majority of rights only to people who have previously been incarcerated is legal based on the original license laws that were passed. If you haven’t opened, you could lose—your golden ticket, as the courts press OCM to go back and reassess each application.

Instead of spreading the wealth, the state has gone back three times to give out more licenses to the same group without any capital to borrow to build their businesses, so many sit on the sidelines with a license and nowhere to go. In the classic American story, the Government tries to do the right thing but does not see it through to a conclusion. It appears that this might have been illegal based on the OCM regulations that they wrote.

Alcohol use is dropping among young adults as cannabis consumption grows. Cannabis is safe and highly effective for treating pain and improves cognition in cancer patients, helping with sleep, depression, and anxiety. Another study suggests that cannabis is as effective as high-THC opinions found more significant pain relief. A new Gallup poll found that American adults view cannabis as less dangerous than alcohol, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and nicotine vapes. Also, cannabis usage has not surpassed cigarette usage in the US. Another small bonus to the hemp plant is that it can pull toxins such as cadmium, nickel, and lead-contaminated environments like abandoned mines from the ground.

Yet here we are with a plant that still has a stigma. Cannabis is Federally listed as a Schedule One drug and taxed at an enormous rate, making it almost impossible to build a profitable business. Attempting to rent a space for a dispensary is difficult because landlords do not want cannabis but have no problem with alcohol.

Fifty years ago, Raymond Shafer, the former Governor of Pennsylvania, analyzed cannabis. He discovered that alcohol is much more dangerous to one’s health. That classifying marijuana as a Schedule One drug is inappropriate, and cannabis should be legal. President Nixon threw all this research under the bus because of his enemies: anti-war protestors and Black people. So they buried the report.

Finally, this week, the HHS Federal health officials are asking the Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana from a high-risk Schedule I to a lower-risk Schedule III drug in the Controlled Substances Act. The cannabis community is thrilled with this. However, the process could take a long time as this opens up a massive can of worms inside the Federal Government. It would behoove the Biden administration to at least roll back 280E immediately to let the industry flourish, as there is no doubt that at one point, this will all be moot, and cannabis will be rescheduled. However, what that looks like is anybody’s guess.

Fixing this mess and leading is a slam-dunk for any politician. Just read the data. Eventually, cannabis will be the largest industry in this country. Can someone lead here?