New York

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New York is one of the highest-profile states currently considering recreational marijuana legislation. The state’s governor laid out a plan to legalize cannabis entirely at the beginning of 2019, but there is opposition. Nevertheless, the state’s medical cannabis industry is moving along at a growing pace, making it an attractive target for cannabis industry entrepreneurs.

Under New York’s current law, smoking or eating medical marijuana is not permitted, although tablets and capsules are. Dispensaries cannot carry dry cannabis flower, but registered patients over age 21 can grow up to four plants at home for personal use.

New York Regulations

Do I need a dispensary license to operate in New York?

Yes. New York refers to cannabis dispensary owners as registered organizations in its state statutes. Registered organizations can own and operate up to four separate dispensaries as either for-profit or not-for-profit organizations.

Who manages cannabis licenses in New York?

The New York Department of Health oversees and regulates the state’s medical marijuana market. In New York, registered organizations can run up to four dispensaries and one additional cultivation center located on separate land.

How can I obtain a cannabis dispensary license in New York?

New York’s last application enrollment period ended in 2015. As of 2019, most of the applicants have opened the maximum of four dispensary locations in their respective geographical areas, but a few still have open slots. The best way for a newcomer to open a cannabis dispensary license would be to work within one of these existing organizations.

What are the requirements for a cannabis retail license?

Applicants have to submit a full business plan to the New York Department of Health within an eligible enrollment period. Registering organizations must already have access to the land, buildings, and equipment necessary to fulfill their business plan or post a $2 million bond for the purpose.

How much does a cannabis retail license cost?

Registered organizations applying for a cannabis license in New York must pay a one-time non-refundable fee of $10,000 and a refundable registration fee of $200,000. Also, applicants who don’t already own, rent, or lease the land and equipment they need will have to post a $2 million bond to that effect.

Are there annual licensing fees?

Yes. The state obligates cannabis dispensary license holders to pay a $200,000 license renewal fee every year. The state refunds this fee to organizations whose applications it denies.

What license type do I need to service recreational and medical patients?

New York offers a single license type to organizations that apply to become medical cannabis dispensaries. This license type allows the organization to develop a cultivation site and open four dispensaries in a single geographical region within the state. Registered organizations cannot open dispensaries outside their respective regions.

When will cannabis retail licenses be issued?

The New York Department of Health took almost a year to validate the applications of its first wave of twenty geographically dispersed dispensaries. This time frame includes the time spent verifying the physical locations of each dispensary where the state requires geographical dispersion but does not offer specific guidance on what that dispersion should look like.

Will I be able to get a retail license if I already have a dispensary?

Current dispensary owners should have an advantage when it comes time to open new dispensaries. If the state adopts recreational marijuana legislation, it is likely that existing medical marijuana dispensaries will have the upper hand in obtaining a sizable market share.

What local (county-level) permissions will I need to operate?

New York requires dispensaries to be geographically dispersed among its various state-level regions. It forbids individual dispensaries from operating within 1,000 feet of any building used exclusively as a school or place of worship. In New York City, local permissions can be particularly difficult for dispensary owners to deal with.

Cannabis Event Licensing

Do I need a license to host a cannabis event in New York?

State law does not require cannabis event organizers to apply for event-specific licensing. Anyone with the appropriate venue and local-level permissions may host a cannabis-related event.

Do I need a separate premises license for cannabis events?

No. Cannabis event organizers and exhibitors do not need to apply for any special licensing. Providing visitors with cannabis products remains prohibited, though.

Can I get a cannabis event license if I hold a retailer license?

Any dispensary owner can host a cannabis-themed event in accordance with local laws without applying for a special license. However, the events must be educational in nature. Selling or advertising marijuana to people without a medical marijuana card is against the law.

Managing Your Business in New York

How can I ensure that I remain compliant?

New York requires dispensaries to report cannabis transactions, implement stringent security solutions, and enter into labor peace agreements with a bona fide labor organization representing its employees. Dispensaries must take steps to prevent the diversion of cannabis products towards the black market.

What security measures am I required to take?

New York requires dispensaries to operate record retention and surveillance systems at every stage of the cannabis product lifecycle. Security systems must prevent the diversion of cannabis to the black market and ensure that cannabis plants are grown in an enclosed area away from public view.

Can I package and label cannabis in my retail store?

Yes. Dispensaries that pack and label their own marijuana need to do so in a secure area. The resulting product must be childproof and clearly state the following message:

“This product is for medicinal use only. Women should not consume during pregnancy or while breastfeeding except on the advice of a certifying health care practitioner, and in the case of breastfeeding mothers, including the infant’s pediatrician. This product might impair the ability to drive. Keep out of reach of children.”

Can I sell alcohol or tobacco at my cannabis retail store?

No establishment that serves alcohol is allowed to serve cannabis products. This rule is also part of the governor’s proposed recreational marijuana law for 2019, so it is likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

Can I vertically integrate my cannabis businesses?

Yes. Although New York’s Department of Health does not explicitly require registered organizations to operate vertically integrated enterprises that include both cultivation and retail dispensary locations, all of the organizations the state has approved thus far are vertically integrated in this manner.

Can I sample or give products away in-store?

Don’t risk it. While state statutes don’t explicitly forbid in-store product giveaways, they do explicitly mention that dispensary licenses give them the right to transport, distribute, and sell cannabis products. This kind of language implies that product giveaways are illegal.

What are the operating hours for a retail shop?

New York does not impose specific operating hours on its dispensaries. Registered organizations are required to report their hours of operation to the state, and the Department of Health posts them on its website for the public.

Can I have public-facing displays on my storefront?

Cannabis dispensaries may have a single, non-illuminated, black-and-white sign facing the public. No public-facing cannabis products or graphic representations of cannabis products are allowed in New York.

How old does someone need to be to buy cannabis?

Registered patients must be at least 18 years old before they can purchase their own cannabis. Minors must have a parent or legal guardian appoint a registered caretaker who is over 21 years of age to make cannabis purchases for them. Parents and legal guardians may also become caretakers.

What is seed-to-sale reporting and what is required of retailers?

Seed-to-sale reporting is a system for tracking individual cannabis products through the entire logistics chain, from the cultivator who grew the original plants, through the processor who packaged them, to the user who purchased them. This is achieved through batch numbers which apply to individual cannabis products.



Asking for a friend: What to know about legalized pot in New York


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