Delays in cannabis nominations may stall recreational sales in New York
With talks at an apparent impasse, key lawmakers say the Cuomo administration has taken little action to prepare for the new adult-use industry — or advance other MRTA-backed changes — amid uncertainty over whether regulatory, licensing and other functions can proceed without a confirmed Office of Cannabis Management executive director or Cannabis Control Board chair.
The back-and-forth has led some to question Cuomo’s motives for finally backing the MRTA, which passed as the governor faced scandals over his administration’s reporting of Covid-19 nursing home deaths and allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate workplace behavior.
“I think he’s still quite ambiguous about the state moving forward, despite the fact that he negotiated the bill and he signed the bill,” said state Sen.
How we got here: Cuomo was widely expected to issue his nominees for OCM executive director and Cannabis Control Board chair before lawmakers left Albany earlier this month.
Cuomo then reportedly considered nominating former Assemblymember Karim Camara, the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based Community Development Services, to chair the new Cannabis Control Board and leaving the other slot unfilled.
“Then, I think there was a lot of jockeying over who he would put forward for the chair of the cannabis board.
But Krueger, who had long pushed for marijuana legalization in Albany, said she doesn’t “know that the governor has actually been born again around any of these issues” after his previous opposition to cannabis legalization.
So what now: Lawmakers face few options for moving forward with New York’s legal cannabis industry if no confirmable nominees emerge for the two positions.
Further complicating things, she said, is the looming potential for an impeachment trial, which might require the governor to step aside temporarily while the proceedings unfold.
For Krueger and others, one thing appears to be clear: Establishing New York’s new legal cannabis market is “not really going to work” without the governor’s participation.
Krueger also said there’s no reason “why we couldn’t start going forward” with enacting the MRTA’s provisions relating to marijuana research.
Lawmakers caution that the delays could extend the state’s timeline for opening recreational cannabis dispensaries — a process that already was expected to take at least 18 months given the experiences seen in other states following legalization.
“If we don’t do anything else, right now, in the state of New York, you can legally be in possession of three ounces of marijuana and smoke it anywhere you can legally smoke tobacco,” she said.