One of the consequences of cannabis legalization is having to listen to straight-laced government bureaucrats as they struggle to form words like “bud” and “joint” in public. Adam Stojanovski and Phillip Rumsey of the state’s Office of Cannabis Management appeared through a video link to explain the state weed bureaucracy at the April 26 New Paltz Village Board meeting; this meant that they also didn’t bring any free samples. Instead, they brought a powerpoint presentation.
After laying out some background on the legal status of cannabis to allow for a certain amount of possession by adults, the expungement of minor offenses under the old law from criminal records, and taxation structure upon which elected officials appear to be pinning many hopes and dreams, the two bureaucrats tried to explain the many different types of licenses that have been created in accordance with this new legal environment. These include licenses to grow, distribute, and sell in a retail environment, and creating all the relevant rules is a long and complex process. The board overseeing all of this will be reviewing recommended changes in the coming weeks, and then there will be a period of public comment before any action can be taken on those revisions.
It’s the retail part that is of most interest, both to public officials rubbing their hands together over the anticipated tax revenues, and to the seasoned smokers and curious newcomers who might finally try cannabis out now that it won’t get them cuffed and hauled off to jail. Having had a prior pot record helps in the process of getting one of these licenses, as does prior business experience. The disproportionate way “marihuana” laws were historically enforced in New York mean that people of color have a leg up competing to run these retails shops, explained the two white state officials. The two types of retail businesses will be the shops where one can purchase but not consume, and the places where one can purchase and consume on the premises. The density of these shops is being regulated to prevent what’s being called a “Starbucks effect.” While several applications for cannabis shops have been working their way through the village planning process, state-level approval is required to secure those licenses regardless.
Any business owner is going to have to follow a lot of rules, rules that are intended to keep the hype down and marketing away from kids. There won’t be logos or images on signs of retail locations, or any signs if it’s a bud delivery business. There won’t be any neon or illuminated signs at all. State officials will have to know who’s in charge, and the records must be meticulously kept. “Bud tenders” will have to be trained according to a manual.
There are also no weed trucks that are legal, even if the owner is offering to sell something like a t-shirt or a membership with a “free gift” of marijuana. However, the enforcement powers given to these state officials are limited, which means that the driver of any weed bus is going to have to be busted indirectly, such as for improper registration, or lack of a food vendor permit or a sales-tax collection certificate.
It’s difficult to say when it will be possible to pick up wax, edibles, or pre-rolled joints in town. On the other hand, adult New Yorkers who hold medical marijuana cards can currently have three mature and three immature cannabis plants at home, as well as three ounces of flower and 24 grams of concentrates. For do-it-yourselfers, the new age is already here. For other consumers, the wait continues.