The state legislature in New York gave the thumbs-up for adults aged 21 and over to purchase THC cannabis flower earlier this year with the passage of Senate Bill S854A. But hundreds of localities across the state aren’t quite yet willing to take it on.
More than 400 towns and villages across the Empire State said in a joint statement on Saturday they’d be banning marijuana dispensaries and consumption lounges from opening, just weeks away from a statewide deadline at the end of the month.
Among the top reasons for opting out, local officials cited a lack of clarity in the state laws. Nearly eight months after then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed S854A into law, the state’s Office of Cannabis Management has yet to develop rules and regulations for selling the plant. The office is also yet to issue a single dispensary license.
A number of municipal officials who voted to opt out, including those in Chautauqua in the rural western part of the state, expressed interest in reconsidering once they felt New York officials adequately developed the rules.
“The fact that they haven’t really published any rules or laws on it yet made us kind of nervous that we don’t know yet what we’d be opting into,” Chautauqua Supervisor Donald Emhardt told Fox5 New York.
Lobbyists, attorneys and cannabis policy analysts across New York estimate dispensaries likely won’t open until late 2022 or even 2023, unless state authorities move quicker than expected.
“The original estimate, which was aggressive, was that it would take 18 months for regulations to be finalized and sales to begin,” acknowledged Office of Cannabis Management spokesman Fred Klopott. “Now that the Board is constituted and the OCM established, we can really begin to look at the timeline and see if there is an opportunity to expedite the process, including the potential to issue some licenses on a rolling basis.”
Still, there are some dispensaries within state borders. The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe in September opened up stores on tribal lands, which authorities consider sovereign from the New York state government. The Seneca and Cayuga Nations have also opened cannabis stores on their sovereign territories.
Klopott told CBS Albany that tribal dispensaries are “legal if they are on federally recognized, sovereign tribal land.”