For the second consecutive year, New York State’s annual budget did not include adult-use marijuana legislation.  The COVID-19 pandemic all but ensured the exclusion of adult-use from the budget, with the legislature shifting its focus to the health and safety of New York residents and the stability of the economy.

Nevertheless, differences in proposed adult-use bills with respect to social equity policies were not resolved before the pandemic. The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act (CRTA) and the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) remain the two competing adult-use bills.   Each bill approaches how to allocate funds derived from the cannabis market revenue to promote social equity differently; the CRTA proposes the indirect allocation of funds through such measures as zero-to-low-interest business loans and application fee waivers, while the MRTA proposes direct allocation of funds to underserved populations through an expansive grant program.

Additionally, New York awaits the drafting and approval of comprehensive hemp regulations from the departments of Health and Agriculture and Markets.  Under the Hemp Bill signed by the Governor in December and the Chapter Amendment approved in January, the legislature tasked the administrative agencies with drafting comprehensive regulations establishing manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer applications, laboratory testing standards and packaging/labeling requirements.  Although several provisions of the Hemp Bill have already gone into effect, absent these regulations, their practical enforcement will be delayed.

It is possible that the NY Legislature could enact and pass a stand-alone bill addressing adult-use before the conclusion of the legislative session in June. However, considering the legislature is concentrating on addressing the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more likely adult-use will be addressed in next year’s annual budget process.

This alert does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on specific matters.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York state, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse and White Plains, as well as New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.