Is Craft Cannabis Coming to New York?

Time is ticking. 

New York localities have just 14 days to make a decision on whether to opt in or out of cannabis retail and onsite consumption spaces. The looming deadline came up during the fourth and likely final meeting this year of the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), the regulatory body standing up what will be one of the world’s most significant cannabis markets.  

Tremaine Wright, head of the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) within the Office, reminded localities of this deadline and pointed local leaders toward a new portal meant to streamline the process. 

OCM executive director Chris Alexander gave an update of opt in and out statistics as of December 15: 365 municipalities, representing roughly 24% of all localities, which includes 10% of cities, 28% of towns, and 19% of all villages, have opted out. 

“These numbers are relatively consistent with the experience of other states, and we expect them to increase a bit as we get to December 31,” Alexander said. 

Alexander talked a bit about the “justification” for the December 31 municipal deadline, too, which was to avoid instances where “businesses receive a license and set up operations at the municipality, only to find out that the municipality later voted to prohibit this activity.”

Board Member Jen Metzger laid out additional proposed changes to the Cannabinoid Program, based on public feedback and discussions with stakeholders. The changes include the addition of a CBD Hemp Farm Processors license, which Metzger said would “make it easier for licensed hemp farmers in New York state to manufacture and sell their own flower products to retailers or sell this product themselves if they have a retail license.” 

“It is a pared down version of the other processor license types, with lower application and license fees. It’s also our hope that this license will reduce barriers and make it more affordable for New York State hemp growers to undertake value-added activities and make their own products,” Metzger said.

Another shift Metzger talked about was the addition of the definition of “craft,” nodding to the robust craft beer that boomed throughout New York State in recent years. 

“Craft products generally have grown in popularity. The craft beverage is a case in point, and the term is often used in marketing for that reason. It’s important to have a definition for craft cannabis products so that consumers can be assured that they are getting a truly artisanal product,” Metzger said. “It is also our hope that by establishing the criteria for using this term in labeling and marketing, we’ll encourage participation in the market by small, sustainable craft farmers and help these businesses distinguish themselves from the marketplace,” Metzger continued, adding that she and her colleagues are “very eager” for feedback on this proposed regulation. 

Other changes included increasing the milligram cap for “dietary supplement products” from 75 mg of CBD to 100 mg, and increasing the “acceptable THC concentration” of intermediary hemp products from 3% to 5%. 

Metzger said that New Yorkers can “anticipate additional changes in the future.” Members passed a resolution to authorize the Office of Cannabis Management to file amendments to the cannabinoid regulation for public comment.

A proliferation of businesses already selling hemp products can be seen across the state, with a concentration in New York City, both in bodegas and in storefronts dedicated to these products. 

“All businesses manufacturing or selling cannabinoid hemp products are required to obtain a cannabinoid hemp license from the Office before manufacturing or selling hemp products to consumers. Businesses who are already manufacturing and selling these products should submit an application immediately,” Metzger said. 

Another resolution passed related to a temporary office space at 250 Broadway in New York City, located in the downtown City Hall area between Park Place and Murray Street. While the Board will have its principal office anchored in Albany, it plans to “maintain branch offices in the cities of New York and Buffalo and any other places as the board deems necessary.”

Alexander also covered that cannabis regulators recently released a request for proposals on seed-to-sale tracking systems. As Cannabis Wire recently reported, Metrc, which contracts with several states on tracking, is lobbying in New York.

The Board also passed a resolution related to a conditional change of ownership of Registered Organization MedMen New York, Inc, with caveats, to Ascend Wellness, which passed (with Board Member Jessica Garcia recusing) with no discussion. 

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