New York lawmakers will hold a public hearing at the end of October in Albany to give stakeholders a chance to critique the adult-use marijuana market rollout – and perhaps influence legislation coming next year, a key Democratic state senator announced Thursday morning.
The hearing, to be held Oct. 30 at 11 a.m., will be open to all, but testimony will only be taken by select witnesses, who are yet to be named. But state Sen. Jeremy Cooney, who will lead the hearing, said he wants to hear from all stakeholders, including retailers, growers, processors, and others who are invested in the New York market.
“It is no secret that the state’s path to adult-use cannabis has been met with a number of challenges, most notably multiple lawsuits that call into question the programs designed to meet social equity goals,” said Cooney, who chairs the state Senate Subcommittee on Cannabis. “It was about a year ago today that the CAURD (conditional adult use retail) program was first launched in New York, and here we are, all these months later, very unsatisfied with its outcome.”
Cooney commended the state Office of Cannabis Management and state regulators and acknowledged their work kept with the spirit of the 2021 Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act, the bill that legalized adult use in New York and set the stage for the CAURD program.
But, he said, lawmakers need a “fact-finding process” to inform legislation in order to solve the market dysfunction and get the recreational industry operating smoothly.
“If we’re going to right this ship, we’re going to need to provide real, concrete public policy solutions,” Cooney said.
As an example, Cooney pointed to a bill he introduced during this past legislative session, which didn’t make it into law. That proposal, the Cannabis Adult Use Transition Act, would have codified the CAURD program in state law, which – Cooney implied – could have staved off the current litigation that has frozen the retail licensing in New York, precisely because that was the legal argument used by plaintiffs to win a preliminary injunction that halted all retail licensing.
Cooney also essentially ruled out the possibility of a legislative special session this year, and said that decision was out of his hands.
But he said the hearing will lead to a policy report with specific recommendations for lawmakers on how to improve the market rollout.
“We all want the same thing, which is more retail access and a more robust market, and therefore being able to reinvest these state dollars back into communities that were ravaged by the war on drugs,” Cooney said. “The timeline for which we get there is what I’m putting a mark on.”
The hearing will be held in conjunction with the chairs of Senate Subcommittees on Agriculture, Finance, Investigations and Government Operations.
In a press release from Cooney’s office, several stakeholder groups in the New York marijuana industry celebrated the news of the hearing, but also warned that the industry is already poised for failure, due to hardships being endured by licensed businesses of all stripes.
“Our members are struggling, laying off workers, and closing their doors. While we do not place blame on any one specific entity, we applaud the opportunity to shine a light on those responsible for a program that has lacked transparency up until this point,” the Association of New York Cannabis Processors said.
The Cannabis Association of New York, which represents licensed farmers, asserted that the state’s fledgling industry is already facing a full-blown “crisis,” with a huge surplus of legal cannabis going unsold due to retail bottlenecks, and said the Office of Cannabis Management “needs to be accountable to the fluctuating market dynamics they create.”
Britni Tantalo, the CEO of the New York CAURD Coalition, also celebrated the hearing but warned, “The cannabis industry is on the brink of collapsing here in New York State.”
Cooney admitted that it’s not yet clear what more can be done at this point without more news from regulators, but the state Cannabis Control Board is scheduled to have its next meeting on Sept. 12, at which Cooney said he hopes more information will emerge about what can be done while the court order remains in place.
“One of the things we don’t want to see is kind of a waiting game. We don’t want to have this hearing take place on Oct. 30, and no action take place before then. That is not what I anticipate,” Cooney said.