2020-21 Improvements and Recommendations

New York’s legislature legalized cannabis for all adults over 21 by passing A.1248 which was promptly signed by Governor Cuomo in March 2021. While the bill is focused on the retail market, there are some provisions included which should improve functionality for patients by expanding the list of qualified conditions, increasing the number of caregivers each patient may have, placing explicit workplace protections preventing unlawful discrimination from cannabis use, and allowing for patients to grow up to 3 mature cannabis plants at home. The bill also focuses heavily on social justice reforms like automatic criminal records expungement for past cannabis related offenses, as well as a social and economic equity licensing program.

In October 2021, New York’s Department of Labor issued guidance saying that employers cannot drug test most workers for marijuana—going so far as to say the odor of cannabis cannot be used to prove impairment on the job. The Cannabis Control Board of NY voted on Oct. 5th to allow dried flower sales in the state’s medical cannabis dispensaries. They also voted to double every patient’s purchase limit from a 30-day supply to a 60-day supply.

With about 30,000 new registrations in 2020-2021, New York’s medical cannabis registry continued to see steady growth. Unfortunately, the inefficient vertically integrated system of production with high barriers to entry did not grow alongside patient demand. ASA recommends that New York’s legislators remove the rule requiring operators to be vertically integrated and work to expand medical product manfacturing and retail access for medical cannabis patients by licensing new operators to produce both medical and adult use products. The Empire state also has some gaps in its protections of civil rights that need to be covered. Patients must be protected as if they were taking any other medication when it comes to organ transplants and roadside sobriety tests. Patients must also be protected from discrimination in housing as well as in family court and child custody hearings. Finally, New York must take great efforts to improve the product testing and safety standards for their products as the state scored only 27.5% of the points possible in this category.