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New York Senator Jeremy Cooney Announces Public Hearing on Adult-Use Cannabis Rollout

Photo by Elsa Olofsson on Unsplash

Senator Jeremy Cooney (D-Rochester), who serves as the chair of the NYS Senate Subcommittee on Cannabis and co-chairs the Marijuana Task Force within the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus, has recently revealed plans for the inaugural public hearing by the Cannabis Subcommittee. This hearing will address the challenges and progress of New York State's rollout of adult-use cannabis, particularly the ongoing issues related to legal retail access.

The public hearing is set to be fully accessible to all interested parties and is scheduled for Tuesday, October 30th, at 11:00 a.m. in Albany, New York.

Cooney assumed the role of Chair of the Subcommittee on Cannabis in the spring of 2023. In addition, he also holds positions as the chair of the Agriculture, Finance, Investigations, and Government Operations Senate standing committees, all of which are expected to collaborate during this crucial hearing.

The hearing is expected to feature testimony from various stakeholders, including representatives from regulatory agencies, public authorities, as well as cannabis cultivators, processors, and retailers—both applicants and licensees. A formal list of witnesses will be released closer to the hearing date.

Senator Cooney's office underscores the significance of this hearing in light of the challenges faced since the New York State Legislature passed the historic Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) in March of 2021. The implementation of New York's adult-use cannabis program has encountered persistent setbacks, including multiple lawsuits aimed at thwarting the state's commitment to social justice objectives, court-ordered injunctions that have caused delays, and staffing challenges within agencies, all of which have impeded the timeline for legal sales and adversely affected cultivators, processors, and retailers.

"I am convening this hearing in partnership with my Senate colleagues because we believe that New Yorkers deserve transparency regarding the progress made thus far and how we can support the retail market in the upcoming legislative session," said Cooney. "Whether you are a potential consumer or a licensee who has invested in this industry, risking your financial future, you deserve clear and documented answers, and we are committed to conducting a productive and impartial hearing."

Senator Cooney's office further notes that the Finger Lakes Region has been disproportionately affected by a court-issued injunction that persisted until May of the current year. More specifically, a recent court decision concerning the legality of conditional adult-use retail dispensary ("CAURD") licenses poses an additional threat to the timely commencement of cannabis retail operations. To date, no adult-use dispensaries have opened in the region, more than two years after recreational legalization, with only sporadic sales occurring through a "cannabis grower's showcase," facilitated by a retailer based in Western New York.

Senator Michelle Hinchey, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, emphasizes, "The persistent uncertainty and delays surrounding the launch of New York's cannabis market have triggered an agricultural crisis, burdening our state's farmers with surplus stock from the previous year's harvest and causing significant financial hardships. We are actively seeking solutions and a clear path forward, reaffirming our unwavering commitment to ensuring the successful and equitable implementation of New York's retail cannabis market."

Senator Liz Kruger, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, reflects on the challenges faced: "While we anticipated challenges in implementing such a historic law as the MRTA, we never foresaw the concerted efforts to obstruct progress, the proliferation of illicit sellers before the legal market took root, or the repeated lawsuits by national cannabis corporations attempting to hinder the prioritization of social equity applicants."

"It has been well over two years since the legalization of recreational marijuana, and in some regions of the state, including the Hudson Valley, not a single dispensary has opened its doors," said Senator James Skoufis, Chair of the Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee.


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