ALBANY — New York's legalization of marijuana is expected to yield a bumper crop of revenue for the state, with the latest projections saying the stream of money coming into state coffers from weed sales will top $360 million annually by 2028.
Over a 5-year span beginning next year, the Hochul administration is banking on $1.25 billion infusion from cannabis revenue.
The proposed state budget advanced by Gov. Kathy Hochul would set up a $200 million public-private equity fund aimed at helping individuals from demographic groups identified as having been adversely impacted by marijuana prohibition laws to become involved in New York's budding industry.
Under the Marijuana Reform Taxation Act approved last year, the state's equity fund will provide loans, grants and incubator programs to help those deemed qualified for the assistance to become involved in the cannabis trade. Those eligible for the equity applications include disabled veterans, distressed farmers, and women- and minority-owned businesses.
One upstate lawmaker, Sen. Jeremy Cooney, D-Rochester, has authored bills that would broaden the social equity applicants to include transgendered people, gays, lesbians and non-binary people. The latter refers to people who don't identify with a specific gender.
While current New York law already allows individuals to possess up to three ounces of marijuana, retail shops and consumption shops in municipalities where they are authorized are not expected to begin operating in the state until next year.
The ongoing delay in ramping up the approval of retail cannabis outlets has helped marijuana shops in nearby states, such as Massachusetts, where the stores began opening their doors in 2018.
But there has been regulatory progress in New York, said Freeman Klopott, spokesman for the state Cannabis Management Office.
"In just a few short months, we’ve already expanded access to the Medical Cannabis Program, officially launched the Cannabinoid Hemp Program, and have recruited and established a pipeline of top talent to join the rapidly growing Office of Cannabis Management team," Klopott said.
In the meantime, he added, the state cannabis agency is working "as fast as possible while also making sure we do it the right way and create equitable opportunity where other states have failed."
Some are hoping lawmakers clear the way for cannabis cultivation to commence sooner rather than later.
"Many in the industry are watching to see whether conditional licenses will be granted so there can be growing this spring," said Karl Sleight, an Albany lawyer who has provided guidance to clients seeking to become involved in the New York program.
Cooney has drafted a bill that would allow the state to issue conditional licenses to cultivators to jump-start New York's supply chain of marijuana.
On Friday, the Office of Cannabis Management announced a series of 11 virtual community outreach meetings to explain the inner workings of the marijuana program. The first session, aimed at Western New York, will be held next Thursday. A meeting for the North Country will be held Feb. 10, while one aimed for the Mohawk Valley is being organized for Feb. 9, with the Southern Tier meeting set for Feb. 3.
Patrick McCarthy, an Albany lobbyist whose portfolio includes companies seeking entry into New York's marijuana program, said: "Everybody is anxious and excited to see the regulations. That is going to be the next important threshold to be met."