Change Over At The New York Governor’s Mansion: What Does It Mean For Adult-Use Cannabis?

Vicente Sederberg LLP
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Vicente Sederberg LLP

On August 10, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his plans to step down as governor, effective August 24, 2021. On that day, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will step into the governorship. What will this mean for implementing adult-use cannabis in the Empire State?

In short, it’s too soon to say—but all signs point to this being a positive development for the implementation of an adult-use cannabis program in New York. While Ms. Hochul cannot rewrite history and get back the lost time, hope is still alive.

The first step in setting up the New York adult-use market is appointing the five-member Cannabis Control Board (CCB). No appointments have been made to the CCB to date. As governor, Ms. Hochul can make two direct appointments and appoint a chairperson of the CCB with the advice and consent of the Senate. The legislature is charged with the remaining appointments. After the CCB is appointed, the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) will be stood up to implement and execute the adult-use program. Governor Hochul will then be able to appoint the Executive Director of the OCM, subject to confirmation by the Senate.

New York’s legislative session ended June 10, 2021 and is not scheduled to reconvene until January 2022—unless a special legislative session is called. While Ms. Hochul might not have the appetite to call a special session before January, there is every indication that appointments to the CCB will be taken up first thing in January. Though she may not be an enthusiastic cannabis supporter, Ms. Hochul has approached the market practically and indicated a desire to commence adult-use sales (and state revenue) without delay. Without a doubt, removing the distraction of Governor Cuomo’s scandals will be a net positive and could accelerate the initial sales timeline.

Only time will tell how quickly New York can implement the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, issue licenses, and retail sales can begin, but the incoming resident at the Executive Mansion is cause for cautious optimism.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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