While the legal cannabis industry in New York languishes, the illicit market here thrives. Those of us following the legal rules and regulations were promised much better. We were told that if we just adhered to the rules, the market would reward our hard work. Instead, many of us who invested much of our life savings into the vision promised are now being bled dry through inconsistent regulations and a lack of enforcement against the illicit market. Here are the three actions the state needs to take immediately.

First, address the Registered Organizations’ (ROs, aka Corporate Cannabis) vertical integration and scale. To save 1,000 small businesses in New York, the state must slow the entry of the ROs – and their 100,000-square-foot canopy – into the wholesale side of the supply chain until the promised 160 stores open. The proposed regulations must be revised to lower the RO license tier to create a level playing field for all New York State businesses. The Legislature can then address vertical integration of the ROs. In no other industry where a two-tier system exists, such as in alcohol or tobacco, do the largest companies get an exemption. Plus, the additional awarding of RO licenses will only serve to amplify the market consolidation of vertical operators.

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Second, amend the regulations now to equally limit the size of cultivation facilities for everyone – ROs (who give up vertical integration), legacy growers, current cultivators, equity applicants and individuals who were part of the mentorship training program. We need our industry to start on a level playing field from the beginning; otherwise, the state will only be compounding the existing oversupply issue that is crushing so many of our cultivators.

Third, call a special session of the Legislature to codify the Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries (CAURD) program into law. If the state does not codify the program, then we will see more lawsuits result from the OCM’s attempt to shoehorn the licensees into the normal licensing process. This will raise questions on scoring and criteria, holding up the industry from opening. Creating a level playing field is essential. Furthermore, $50 million has already been procured to provide grants or low-interest loans directly to CAURD applicants. These funds need to be deployed to help realize promises made by the state to support small businesses and justice-impacted people in the industry first.

New York State envisioned an industry that would address the failed war on drugs while also building small and medium-sized New York businesses. If the state does not act now, we will see a dramatic loss of legal cannabis business owners who trusted the state and risked their livelihoods to embark on a new market.

The Cannabis Association of New York is an industry association that represents the cannabis supply chain and the businesses that serve the industry. For more information: cany.org

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 New York State must make small cannabis businesses whole by slowing the introduction of large companies and otherwise leveling the playing field for those who being overwhelmed by the illicit market.  Read More