To understand issues facing New York’s growing legal marijuana industry, the state’s Senate Cannabis Committee has decided to turn to an invaluable source of insights: the public. The newly-formed New York Senate cannabis committee, under the astute leadership of Sen. Jeremy Cooney (D), is extending an invitation to the public for a unique opportunity: to discuss the many challenges the Empire State faces in its pursuit of legalizing cannabis.

On Monday, Sen. Cooney invited members of the public, urging them to share their perspectives on the challenges engulfing the state’s legal cannabis landscape. Slated for October 30, this pivotal meeting requires interested individuals to submit their intentions via an online witness request form. “The goal? To solicit feedback from a diverse cohort of individuals entrenched in the adult-use space,” Cooney says in a press release. 

His announcement brings with it a promise and a sense of urgency. Cooney believes that to tackle the myriad challenges New York has faced since the rollout of adult-use cannabis, it is crucial to incorporate many voices into the discourse. “This is about transparency, about the diversity of voices,” Cooney emphasized, heralding the value of public testimonies. 

This public hearing wasn’t planned suddenly. Announced initially in September, its primary objective is to shed light on the complexities surrounding the rollout of adult-use cannabis in New York.

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New York’s vision for its cannabis program is crystal clear: social equity. The aim has been to prioritize those who’ve felt the brunt of prohibition. But the journey to get there has been difficult, with illicit cannabis enterprises filling the void created by slow regulatory decisions. There have also been legal problems, like recent lawsuits, that have caused delays in giving out licenses for cannabis businesses.

In a straightforward talk with Marijuana Moment, Cooney explained why this hearing is so important. He stressed that the goal is a thorough “fact-finding” process, a groundwork to highlight critical public policy needs and potential legislative changes.

Given the significance of the issue, this isn’t a one-committee job. Powerhouses like the Senate Agriculture, Finance, and Investigations & Government Operations Committees are also involved. With several voices expected to contribute, not everyone might get the spotlight but fear not, written testimonies are also welcomed with open arms.

Regions are taking action while the state deals with this big legislative challenge. Recently, the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) opened up the opportunity for more types of businesses to get licenses, including big companies from other states and existing medical cannabis companies. Though seemingly efficient, this decision displays the social equity fear that this could overshadow the initial objective: uplifting small businesses and those most affected by prohibition.

This change in who can be part of the cannabis market is attractive, especially considering the current situation. Even though the state said it was okay for adults to use cannabis last year, only a few legal stores have opened, with New York City seeing a surge in unauthorized sellers. 

Legal challenges continue to mount, with a recent lawsuit by a veterans group leading to a halt in new cannabis licensing. This decision, unsurprisingly, didn’t sit well with Cooney, who voiced his displeasure at this unexpected roadblock.

To make it easier for people to get legal cannabis, initiatives like the Cannabis Growers Showcase (CGS) have been launched. Managed by New York’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), it allows growers to engage directly with consumers. Furthermore, a significant plea to Gov. Kathy Hochul from nearly a third of the state legislature seeks permission for licensed marijuana producers to engage with tribal retailers, addressing the pressing issue of unsold cannabis—a staggering 250,000 pounds, to be precise.

Many farmers in New York have put all their money into growing cannabis and are now worried. They have so much cannabis and don’t know if they can sell it. 

With all this happening, an important meeting is coming up in New York about cannabis. Everyone hopes this meeting will help clarify things and show a way forward.