Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act: Summary

The Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (S.854-A/A.1248-A) creates a first in the nation comprehensive regulatory structure to oversee the licensure, cultivation, production, distribution, sale and taxation of medical, adult-use and cannabinoid hemp within NYS. The legalization of adult-use cannabis is an enormous public policy shift affecting many facets of society. The regulatory framework outlined in the MRTA will take time to develop and will require input from communities and stakeholders throughout NYS. While there are currently no stores open to purchase adult-use cannabis, adults over 21 can possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of concentrated cannabis (like vaporization oil or an edible). Adults may possess up to five pounds of cannabis at their personal residence or grounds. Personal possession over the legal limit and the unauthorized sale of any amount of cannabis is illegal and subject to penalties.

MRTA establishes a framework to comprehensively regulate cannabis in NYS to protect public health and safety, while promoting social equity and economic development. The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) will license cultivators, processors, distributors and dispensaries to grow and sell cannabis in New York State. To protect consumer safety, there will be laboratory testing and packaging and labeling requirements for cannabis products. OCM will create a social and economic equity program to encourage small businesses and communities disproportionally harmed by disparate drug enforcement to participate in the new industry.

Permits Consumption of Adult Use Cannabis: Adults 21+ will be allowed to buy and possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis flower and up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis (oils, tincture, edibles, vapes, etc.). You will be able to buy cannabis only at a NYS licensed dispensary.

Cannabis is legal in New York for adults 21+, but that doesn’t mean you can use it anywhere you want. Cannabis can be consumed in a private home or at a NYS-licensed on-site consumption site (coming soon).

· The smoking of cannabis is prohibited anywhere smoking tobacco is prohibited. The MRTA adds cannabis to the Clean Indoor Air Act which establishes a baseline on where cannabis can be smoked or vaped.

· A landlord cannot refuse to rent to a tenant who uses cannabis, but landlords, property owners and rental companies can still ban the use of cannabis on their premises.

· If you’re traveling, hotel owners can ban the use and possession of cannabis on their properties, so you may not be able to use in a hotel room. Please note, that leaving the state or country with any cannabis product is against the law.

· Since cannabis is still illegal under federal law, you can’t use on federal land, including national parks and national forests.

Adult-Use Cannabis: two-tier licensing structure allowing wide range of producers by separating those growers and processors from Retail Dispensaries. Includes a social and economic equity program (with goal of 50% of licenses that go to MWBE’s (Minority- or Women-owned Business Enterprise) / “Distressed Farmer” / Service-Disabled Veterans) and would assist individuals disproportionally impacted by cannabis enforcement to participate in the industry. Creates Adult Use Distributor (based on per milligram of THC) and Retail Dispensary taxes (9% + 4%) (see Adult Use Taxes).

Establish the Office of Cannabis Management: responsible for enforcing a comprehensive regulatory framework governing medical, adult-use cannabinoid hemp; governed five-member board, with three members appointed by the Governor and one appointment by each house. OCM would be an independent office operating as part of the NYS Liquor Authority / Division of Alcoholic Beverages.

Social Justice: Establishes a robust social and economic equity program to actively encourage members from communities disproportionally impacted by the policies of prohibition to participate in the new industry.

Public Health & Safety: It’s illegal for anyone under age 21 to buy, possess or use adult-use cannabis. Adult-use retail dispensaries can lose their license for selling cannabis to anyone underage. Adults can be charged with criminal penalties for selling or giving cannabis products to someone underage. Cannabis use is found to have negative social, physical, and mental health impacts on youth.

Additionally, OCM Administers a sophisticated quality assurance regulatory structure including standards for production and manufacturing, strict product testing, labeling, packaging and advertising to ensure products are safe for consumers and not targeted to youth.

Economic Development: Encourages small business and farmers to participate in the cannabis industry with the creation of microbusiness, cooperative and delivery license types.

· Establishes the Cannabis Council Board (CCB) & Office of Cannabis Management;

· Expands New York's Existing Medical Marijuana & Cannabinoid Hemp Programs;

· Establishes a Licensing System with Eleven (11) Adult-Use License Types;

· Creates a Social and Economic Equity Program to assist individuals disproportionately impacted by cannabis enforcement that want to participate in the industry; and,

· “Significant economic opportunities” as NYS projects Tax Collection to reach $350 Million Annually and Potentially Create 30,000 to 60,000 Jobs

Medical Cannabis: The agreement would allow people with a larger list of medical conditions to access medical marijuana, increase the number of caregivers allowed per patient, and permit home cultivation of medical cannabis for patients. Additionally, patients can now consume cannabis plant.

Cannabinoid Hemp: The agreement would permit the sale of hemp flower in the cannabinoid hemp program, and allow for smokeable forms only when adult use retail stores are operational.

Adult-Use Cannabis Tax Revenue: All cannabis taxes would be deposited in the NYS cannabis revenue fund. Revenue covers reasonable costs to administer the program and implement the law. The remaining funding would be split three ways:

  • 40 % to Education

  • 40 % to Community Grants Reinvestment Fund

  • 20 % to Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund

Municipal Opt-Out: Cities, towns, and villages may opt-out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses by passing a local law by 12/31/2021. They cannot opt-out of adult-use legalization. Municipalities and local governments are permitted to make laws that are more restrictive; however, cannabis must be treated as a lawful substance and there can be no discriminatory enforcement against cannabis consumers.

Traffic Safety: NYS Department of Health will work with SUNY colleges to conduct a controlled research study designed to evaluate methodologies and technologies for the detection of cannabis-impaired driving. After completion of the research study, DOH may create and implement rules and regulations to approve and certify a test for the presence of cannabis in drivers. The legislation includes additional funding for drug recognition experts and law enforcement to ensure safe roadways. The use of cannabis by drivers will remain prohibited.

Personal Possession & Home Cultivation: New Yorkers 21 years and older can grow up to 6 plants in their home for personal use (3 mature plants and 3 immature plants) and a maximum of 12 plants per household (6 mature plants and 6 immature plants), even if there are three or more adults over the age of 21 in the residence. Please be aware the home cultivation of cannabis plants is not allowed immediately. Permitted only after OCM issues regulations governing home cultivation of cannabis (no later than 18 months after first adult-use retail sale).

  • Personal possession outside of the home: up to 3 ounces cannabis and 24 grams of cannabis concentrate; persons can possess up to 5 pounds at their personal residence

  • Home possession: Amending limits of what is permitted in the home, which must be kept in a secure location away and not accessible to persons under age 21

· Home grow: Home cultivated cannabis cannot be sold to anyone and is only intended for personal use. Also, it is illegal to make cannabis hash oil or concentrates using substances like butane, propane, or alcohol with home grown cannabis.

    • Local municipalities may enact and enforce regulations relating to home cultivation of cannabis provided, no municipality may completely ban or prohibit home cultivation.

Criminal Justice & Record Expungement: The cannabis penalty framework would be restructured to avoid the criminalization seen in prohibition. Reduced penalties would be implemented for possession and sale. Creates automatic expungement or resentencing for anyone with a previous marijuana conviction that would now be legal under the law and provides necessary funding.

Protections for the Use of Cannabis & Workplace Safety: Unlawful discrimination would be prohibited and workplace safety protections would be implemented. However, employers can still enforce policies that prohibit impairment on the job. Employers are not required to commit any act that would cause them to violate federal law or lose federal funding.

Public Health & Education Campaign: OCM will establish a robust public health and education campaign and work with neighboring states and associations to coordinate actions and policies to protect regional health and safety.