Thursday 2nd December, 2021

Issue No.69

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New York's first retail marijuana license applications are now being accepted by an Indian tribe

The first recreational marijuana retailers in New York will likely be located in Indian territory, with one tribe officially opening applications for potential marijuana license on Monday.

The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe outperforms non-Indian competitors in the market by about a year. Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed an adult-use legalisation bill in March, but state regulators are still being appointed, and sales are not expected to launch until 2022.

marijuana license

In an announcement on Friday, the tribe noted that it had passed an ordinance in June approving the legalisation of recreational cannabis and establishing its own regulations. Adults 21 and older are now allowed to grow up to 12 plants for personal use, and the ordinance established a licensing process for marijuana license companies.

Tribe members separately passed a resolution in 2019 expressing majority support for legalising the use of adults and another proposal to establish a medical cannabis program in the territory.

"Unlike other tribal territories, the Tribal Adult-Use Cannabis Ordinance provides eligible tribe members with the opportunity to help develop this new industry for the benefit of the community," Tribal Chief Michael Conners said. "Tribal licensing builds on our business community's history of keeping revenue in Akwesasne to support community programs and services."

Applications will be processed relatively quickly, with the tribe telling applicants who have already submitted a pre-release form that they will receive a status update within two weeks of submission. It's not clear when the first retail sales will launch.

"We continue to take this moment to thank community members for contributing to the development of the policy, as well as individual patience in obtaining a retail license under tribal law," said tribal chief Ron LaFrance. "Tribal-licensed cannabis retailers will have the opportunity to make their products available before state-licensed companies."

New York's first retail marijuana license applications are now being accepted by an Indian tribe

Things aren't moving that fast for New York as a whole when it comes to cannabis implementation.

Advocates and stakeholders criticised Cuomo for delaying his appointments to key marijuana license regulatory posts. But since her resignation, newly inaugurated Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has made two key regulatory appointments to oversee the state's cannabis market that the Senate has confirmed.

Leaders in both houses of the legislature also recently announced their choices to serve on the Cannabis Control Board. The governor has two more appointments to make, which will not be subject to Senate approval.

Because the process has been delayed, however, a GOP senator wants to give local jurisdictions another year to decide whether they will allow marijuana license companies to operate in their area -- a proposal that supporters say is unnecessary and would create undue complications for them the industry.

Under the enacted law, counties must determine whether they will choose not to allow marijuana license retailers or social consumption sites until December 31, 2021. Senator George Borrello (R) introduced legislation late last week that would delay that deadline by one year.

New York's first retail marijuana license applications are now being accepted by an Indian tribe

Legalisation activists aren't buying the argument, however. And while two more regulatory appointments have yet to be made, they say local lawmakers have clear guidance written in the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) that should effectively guide their decision-making on whether or not to accept marijuana businesses until December 31st initial deadline.

Furthermore, lawmakers are not even expected to meet again before December 31, which means Borrello's legislation will likely not have a chance to be enacted in time, although it could theoretically move forward later and give locales more time to decide whether to ban marijuana retailers and drinking facilities after the current deadline expires.

Separately, another senator introduced a bill in July to create a provisional marijuana license category so that farmers could begin cultivating and selling cannabis before formal implementation of the adult-use program.

Hochul has made it clear that defending the New York marijuana market is a priority, and she is working with leaders to move the process forward.

In the meantime, before stores open, adults 21 and older can possess up to 85 grams of cannabis or 24 grams of concentrate in New York -- and they can also smoke marijuana in public.

Adding pressure to get the market going is the fact that regulators in neighbouring New Jersey recently released rules for their adult marijuana program, which is being implemented after voters passed a legalization referendum last year.

New York's first retail marijuana license applications are now being accepted by an Indian tribe

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