A solid majority of New York cities, towns, and villages have chosen to allow legal weed stores and consumption lounges to open on their home turf.
The Empire State's Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act, which became law last March, allowed each individual municipality to decide whether to allow adult-use retail shops or cannabis consumption lounges to open within their jurisdictions. Municipal governments were given until December 31st of last year to make their decision, and any town that failed to provide an answer by that date was automatically opted-in to the legal market.
That deadline has now passed, and the results are in. According to an online tracker set up by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, 863 out of the 1,518 municipalities in New York will allow adult-use dispensaries to open. On-site consumption lounges proved to be less popular, but even so, 767 municipalities still approved them. The tracker cautions that it “does not represent real-time, official information” on final opt-out decisions, but it does suggest that a majority of municipalities are willing to take part in the state's new adult-use market.
Most other adult-use states also allow local governments to opt-out of legal weed sales, and in some of these states, a majority of towns have chosen to do so. In California, the country's largest adult-use market, 80 percent of towns and cities ban legal weed businesses - a decision that has convinced many customers to stick with black market bud. Maine's restrictive weed laws require towns to actively opt in if they want to participate in legal sales, and half of the counties in Montana have opted out of the state's brand-new legal weed market.
So far, it looks like New York towns are way more down with weed than most other adult-use states. But according to Heather Trela, who has been tracking this data for the Rockefeller Institute, the opt-in rates might have been even higher if the state had actually gotten around to issuing regulations for the new industry. Towns that have opted-out can reverse their decision at any time, and some local officials have said that they may choose to do so once the state finally announces its regulations.
“The big takeaway for me is how frequently the lack of state guidelines was cited by municipalities that chose to opt out,” said Trela to Marijuana Moment. “Which potentially leaves the door open for some to opt in in the future.”
The state's adult-use law technically allowed legal sales to begin this April, but regulators recently announced that they won't be ready to issue licenses until next spring. At this rate, legal sales will not begin until the end of 2023 at the earliest.
But despite this endless delay, New Yorkers still have a few options to buy legal weed. Several local Native American tribes, which are not subject to state laws and weed regulations, have already started selling legal pot, and adult-use stores in neighboring Massachusetts have already been open for years. Connecticut, New Jersey, and Vermont are also likely to open adult-use dispensaries before the year is out.