The Legislative Gazette
he New York State Senate Subcommittee on Cannabis held its first public hearing in Albany on Monday to shed light on the issues that have been preventing the legal cannabis market from becoming fully operational.
During the hearing — which bore witness to many problems that have plagued New York’s legal cannabis market over the past few years — a few issues stood out, being referenced repeatedly. Licensing problems, the existence and regulation of illegal dispensaries and preventing the monopolization of the industry were overarching issues that affected most of the witnesses at the hearing in some capacity.
Led by Senator Jeremy Cooney, D-Rochester, the chair of the Subcommittee on Cannabis, the joint hearing lasted nearly nine hours and hosted 13 witness panels consisting of 38 persons involved with the cannabis industry, including regulators, retailers, farmers’ associations, law enforcement, medical marijuana organizations and more.
The length and capacity of the hearing was a testament to the scale and impact the cannabis industry already possesses, in spite of its shortcomings.
Cooney was joined by Senator Liz Kruger, D-Manhattan; Senator Michelle Hinchey, D-Kingston; and Senator James Skoufis, D-Cornwall. The senators serve as the chairs of Senate Standing Committees on Finance, Agriculture, and Investigations and Government Operations, respectively.
Due to the broad nature of New York’s cannabis market, lawmakers representing several committees were present at the public hearing. A full hearing room was also an indication of the heavy interest in this topic by industry stakeholders and members of the public.
Sen. Krueger was the main sponsor of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which was the bill that legalized recreational marijuana use in New York, back in 2021.
“When we passed this law, which took seven years to pass, we thought we had thought through everything,” said Krueger. “So, I’m very interested in hearing from all of you; what you think is working, what you don’t think is working and why.”
Since the passage of the MRTA, the legal adult-use cannabis market has been extremely underwhelming in its implementation due to numerous obstacles that existed and impacted the industry at virtually every level. Currently, only 26 legal dispensaries are actually open and operating, a paltry number well below expectations.
At the hearing, Skoufis spoke on the non-existence of dispensaries in his district of the Hudson Valley.
“Most, if not almost all, the stakeholders who I have interacted with, have viewed the rollout over the [past] 943 days as challenging, to put it kindly, if not unsuccessful, or a failure,” Skoufis said.
His constituents’ situations are not unique, either. With zero dispensaries being open in the Hudson Valley, as well as other regions in the state, the lack of transparency surrounding the industry is only stoking frustrations. As such, the hearing’s purpose was to examine all levels of the cannabis market and their associated challenges and obstacles.