Jen Metzger, a member of the New York State Cannabis Control Board and former state senator, spoke about cannabis regulations with members of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Oct. 21.
During the Zoom meeting, she answered questions posed by chamber President Ray Pucci and chamber members about the recently enacted state law that will allow adult cannabis sales in New York state.
Pucci said the chamber has gotten some pushback from some residents for supporting the cannabis sales in the county, but said the chamber “supports all of our businesses in the county.”
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act on March 31. The law allows people to be in possession of up to three ounces of cannabis and up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis oil. The law will allow people to grow up to six marijuana plants, but only three can be mature plants, on their property and be in possession of three flowers. The bill also established the Office of Cannabis Management, which is overseen by the Cannabis Control Board made up of five people appointed by the governor.
Metzger said she was appointed to the position by Gov. Kathy Hochul after Cuomo failed to appoint a board before he resigned. She said she had hoped the control board would have been appointed in April or May, but that wasn’t the case. She said the board is now playing catch-up in order to have regulations in place by Jan. 1. She said the board held its first meeting Oct. 5 and a second meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Oct. 21.
She said the office will oversee the regulations for medical cannabis, cannabinoid hemp and adult use cannabis sales and said it was nice that they were all grouped together under one authority.
She said the sale of cannabis will help farmers and small businesses as part of the law prohibits a person from owning more than three dispensaries in the state. She said everyone who wants to get into the business must be licensed by the state, including farmers, nurseries, small businesses that want to sell the product or open a cannabis lounge, distributors and microbusiness owners. She said she has talked to several farmers interested in growing cannabis and starting a microbusiness so they can sell their product.
“In other states and countries, multi-million dollar companies own a monopoly in the cannabis industry and control the whole supply chain,” Metzger said. “That’s not allowed here. This law prohibits vertical integration. We want more small businesses to be successful.”
She said the only type of license that allows the vertical integration is the microbusiness that allows small farmers to grow, cultivate and sell their product, which she compared to a craft beverage brewery.
However, the microbusiness license will not be granted if the local municipality opts out of sales, she said. Towns, cities and villages have until Dec. 31 to decide whether to opt out of cannabis sales. If municipalities opt out of sales, they can opt back in at a future date, she said. Farmers and nursery owners can still apply for licenses if the town opts out of sales.
In addition to making sure it is advantageous for small businesses and farmers, the law states that 50% of the licenses will be granted to people or businesses adversely affected by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition, she said. That includes minorities, distressed farmers, women business owners and service disabled veterans, Metzger said.
The sale of cannabis will also benefit local governments and a majority of the people in the state, Metzger said. The state will charge a 9% excise tax and the county will charge a 4% excise tax. Of the 4% excise tax, 75% will go to the local municipality that allows sales and 25% will go to the county, she said. Of the 9% state excise tax, 40% will go to a community grant reinvestment fund, 20% will go to substance abuse programs and 40% will go to public education.
Metzger said part of the legislation funds the teaching of local police to be drug recognition experts in cases of driving while ability impaired by drugs.
She encouraged people to visit the state website cannabis.ny.gov within the coming months to keep up to date on the board’s decisions.
Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_VickyK on Twitter.