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New York cannabis regulators just pushed back the start date for legal weed sales by at least a full year, creating a massive opportunity for black market pot dealers.
At a recent cannabis industry symposium in Rochester, state Cannabis Control Board (CCB) chair Tremaine Wright announced that regulators would not begin issuing adult-use business licenses until spring of 2023 at the very earliest. And since it will take new businesses several months to get rolling after they receive their licenses, that means legal dispensaries may not be able to open their doors until the end of 2023.
“What we do control is getting (dispensaries) licensing and giving them all the tools so they can work within our systems,” said Wright at the conference, according to WXXI News. “That’s what we are saying will be achieved in 18 months. Not that they’re open, not that they’ll be full-blown operations, because we don’t know that.”
The Empire State's long-delayed adult-use law, which took effect on April 1 of this year, technically allows licensed dispensaries to begin selling pot as early as April 1, 2022. If regulators stuck to this timeline, legal sales would probably have started at the end of 2022, nearly two years after the law took effect. Now, under the new timeline, that gap is stretching closer to three years, which is a major disappointment for the state's budding cannabis industry.
Any adult in New York can now legally carry up to three ounces of pot, store up to five pounds at home, and smoke up anywhere that tobacco use is allowed – but cannot legally buy weed. To meet the growing demand, several small businesses have launched weed gifting services, offering “free” pot to anyone who buys trivial merch or makes a donation. But last week, the CCB explicitly banned these services, giving cops the authority to raid and shut down these businesses.
With both legal sales and gray market gifting currently off the table, most New Yorkers will undoubtedly turn to the unregulated market to buy their weed. The unregulated market still continues to dominate cannabis sales in California, Oregon, and other West Coast states, despite the strength of those states' adult-use industries, and New York's endless delays in establishing its own legal market will certainly provide a huge financial incentive for illicit sales to continue.
There are still a handful of options for New Yorkers who want to acquire their weed legally, though. Adult-use products are legally available for sale across the border in Massachusetts, and neighboring Connecticut, New Jersey, and Vermont are also likely to begin opening adult-use dispensaries before the end of 2022. New York also recently expanded its medical marijuana program, allowing patients to purchase smokeable flower at dispensaries or grow their own medicine at home.
Several local indigenous Native American tribes, including the Shinnecock Indian Nation and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, have also launched plans to start their own adult-use industries within New York. As sovereign nations, these tribes are not required to adhere to the state's overall cannabis regulations, and are therefore free to set their own timelines for adult-use sales to begin.