Before the year is out, New Yorkers might just be able to order up a slice of cannabis-infused pizza with a side of THC gummies for dinner.
The state Office of Cannabis Management has recently been debating regulations that would allow pizzerias and other eateries to sell weed-infused meals and pre-packaged weed edibles. If regulators sign off on the plan, businesses in jurisdictions that have opted-in to the legal weed industry would be allowed to apply for licenses that allow them to serve infused foods.
OCM spokesperson Aaron Ghitelman has confirmed to the New York Post that these plans are definitely for real, but cautioned that regulators have not fully approved the idea. He also pointed out that “the regulations regarding infused food products have not been released yet.”
New York's adult-use law, which took effect just over a year ago, does not establish provisions that allow restaurants to serve infused foods. But it also doesn't specifically prohibit them from doing so, according to state Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), one of the legalization bill's lead sponsors.
The law does include some regulations that might make things difficult for a pot pizzeria, though. For one, the state prohibits any business that sells weed from also selling alcohol. So a potential pot restaurant would need to give up its alcohol license in order to obtain a cannabis license, and the loss of revenue from booze sales might just discourage eateries from applying for these new licenses.
“We’ve been advocating for on-license cannabis sales for restaurants and nightlife establishments,” said Max Bookman, attorney for the NYC Hospitality Alliance, to the Post. “New York is the culinary capital of the world...but denying establishments from having both a liquor and cannabis license killed our buzz.”
Legal concerns may also discourage some businesses from jumping on the weed bandwagon. Since cannabis is still federally illegal, many insurance companies refuse to insure businesses that handle the plant directly. This could leave a pot pizzeria open to expensive litigation if they ended up getting sued by someone who got too blazed off a slice. And because federal law also prohibits financial institutions from working with weed businesses, cannabis eateries would probably have to operate on a cash-only basis.
It is also illegal to sell weed to anyone under the age of 21, and Krueger suggested that this restriction would likely force cannabis restaurants to ban all minors from their premises. “So no big pie shared with kids,” she told the New York Post. And of course, the cannabis content of any infused food would need to be “labeled correctly so that one was having two slices of pizza equivalent to four doses of marijuana.”
These regulations may not materialize until the end of this year, but grabbing a slice of pot-infused pizza in New York City is already easy as pie. Several speakeasy restaurants, including Stoned Pizza in the East Village, have been serving up pot-infused pizzas for years now. These businesses are entirely illegal, though, and since the adult-use market is not yet up and running, they must source their bud from the black market.
Most other adult-use states have chosen to crack down on the black market by directing local cops to raid illegal or grey-market businesses and send offenders to prison. New York, on the other hand, has so far tried to stop throwing people in jail over weed. The state's decision to allow public pot smoking has vastly reduced the number of racially-unequal cannabis arrests, and the new regulatory proposal would give weed restaurant owners a chance to go legal instead of going to jail.