New York marijuana regulators are back in the news again. And once again, it is for all the wrong reasons. They cannot seem to get anything right when it comes to legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana. Their latest misstep actually threatens the future of small businesses in the Empire State’s marijuana industry.
News reports explain that the New York Cannabis Control Board (CCB) just finished approving a handful of rule changes intended to speed up the process of expanding New York’s recreational marijuana market. The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) has officially backed the CCB move, claiming that it “represents the values of equity and competition” regulators have been trying so hard to achieve.
Small business owners in New York are not convinced. They say the new rules threaten their very existence. They now worry that Big Marijuana, led by out-of-state interests, will make their way into the Empire State and take over.
Flawed from the Start
New York’s recreational marijuana program was flawed from the start. When recreational marijuana was first legalized, New York did not have the regulatory framework in place. So instead, officials willingly turned a blind eye to illegal operators under the assumption that they would suddenly go legal once regulators got the program up and running. You can guess what happened.
To date, there are only about two dozen legal dispensaries throughout the entire state. Meanwhile, illegal operators are as plentiful in New York as they are in California. They are not going to go legal if that means having to adhere to cumbersome regulations and pay punitive taxes.
Too Difficult to Implement
Making matters worse is the fact that New York’s recreational marijuana program ultimately became too difficult to implement. As a result, progress has been excruciatingly slow. Regulators simply cannot issue licenses quickly enough because everything is bogged down in red tape.
The new rules are intended to solve that problem. They are intended to get more organizations to apply for licenses and more licenses granted by the end of the year. But they also open the door to out-of-state operators and new companies that do not fit New York’s narrow social equity standards previously imposed on license applicants.
To say things are a mess in New York is to state the obvious. The more regulators try to fix the problems they created, the more problems they create. Their program is never going to get better until they scrap it and start over.
Meanwhile, Out in Utah
Half-way across the country, Utah continues to operate one of the most tightly controlled medical cannabis markets in the country. Their program has its critics, but few can argue that it is efficient and lean. It is also one of the least complicated medical cannabis programs around.
The cannabis experts at Utah Marijuana say that regulators have crafted a simple and straightforward set of licensing guidelines. Every piece of legislation lawmakers have passed thus far has been implemented fairly quickly, with only a few exceptions.
By keeping things simple, Utah has allowed the industry to grow more organically than it has in any other state. The only thing that could make Utah’s medical cannabis program better is full deregulation. Since that is not going to happen, the state seems to have found the sweet spot that so many other states are still searching for.
Back in New York, things are so bad that the Empire State could easily eclipse California as the worst state in which to be a cannabis entrepreneur. We will know by the end of the year.