Survey: Nearly One-Third of Cancer Patients Use MJ, Most Say Symptoms Improved

A new survey, conducted by researchers affiliated with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and published in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer, sought the perspectives of 1,258 cancer patients to find out more about their relationship with cannabis as it pertains to their cancer symptoms. 

“To characterize cannabis use among cancer patients, we aimed to describe 1) patterns of cannabis use across multiple cancer sites; 2) perceived goals, benefits, harms of cannabis; and 3) communication about cannabis,” authors note in the study abstract.

How Do Cancer Patients Use Cannabis, and Is It Effective?

The survey looked at patients with nine different cancers treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center between March and August 2021. Respondents completed an online or phone survey asking about their cannabis use, attitudes and communication surrounding cannabis. 

Researchers used multivariable logistic regression to estimate the association of cancer type and cannabis use, adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics and prior cannabis use.

All respondents resided in states where the use of medicinal cannabis for cancer is legal, and 31% said that they used cannabis products following their diagnosis, ranging from 25% for lung cancer to 59% for testicular cancer.

“Characteristics associated with cannabis use included younger age, lower education level, and cancer type. In multivariable analysis, compared to lung cancer patients, gastrointestinal cancer patients were more likely to use cannabis,” the study notes.

Researchers also said that cannabis use in the year prior to diagnosis was “strongly associated” with cannabis use after diagnosis. Most cannabis users reported that they used it to assist with sleep (48%); followed by use for stress, anxiety or depression (46%); and pain (42%). Among those who used cannabis to improve symptoms, 70-90% reported improvement, while less than 5% said that any symptom worsened.

Consistent with previous data showing a reluctance to disclose cannabis use with healthcare professionals, only 25% of respondents said they discussed their cannabis use with medical providers.

Despite Lack of Oncologist Involvement, Cancer Patients Find Relief Through Cannabis

In the study’s conclusion, authors note that the survey shows that cannabis use among cancer patients is common across sociodemographic and clinical populations, with cannabis often being obtained independent of oncologists. Authors note that “oncologists and other members of the oncology team are uniquely positioned to provide education about the harms and benefits of cannabis use specifically for cancer patients,” adding that this context is “especially important” when it comes to “inconclusive and often conflicting evidence.”

“Interventions to improve cannabis education and communication need not target oncologists who treat specific cancers, as cannabis use appears consistent across multiple patient characteristics,” the authors concluded. “… To improve decision making about cannabis use during cancer care, research is needed to determine benefits and harms of cannabis use.”

Continued Evidence for Cannabis as Treatment for Cancer Symptoms

Cancer patients using cannabis to aid in symptom relief is nothing new, though the body of research surrounding cannabis as an effective treatment for symptom relief is still growing. That said, the available findings show promising outcomes for treating cancer-related symptoms. 

A May 2023 study found that medical cannabis is a safe and effective treatment for pain caused by cancer when combined with other drugs. Researchers concluded that medicinal cannabis is “a safe and complementary treatment option in patients with cancer failing to reach adequate pain relief through conventional analgesics, such as opioids.” The study found that medicinal cannabis significantly reduced pain in particular.

Another study, published in 2022, similarly found that cancer patients who used medicinal cannabis reported less pain and that cannabis reduced their need for powerful opiate painkillers. The study also found that cannabis was well tolerated and reduced other cancer-related symptoms.

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NYC Pays Settlement to Mom Separated from Newborn for Cannabis Use

A settlement has been reached between the City of New York’s child welfare arm and a mother who had her baby taken from her just days after his birth.

According to an article in the New York Daily News, The New York Administration for Children’s Services will pay Chanetto Rivers, who says she was subjected to a drug test without her consent, a settlement of $75K plus attorney fees.

Rivers’ case first made headlines in May when the New York Times ran a story entitled “She Smoked Weed Legally, Then Gave Birth. New York Took Her Baby,” and that does indeed appear to be an apt description as Rivers gave birth to her baby boy in August of 2021, five months after New York legalized cannabis for recreational purposes.

The new laws did not stop ACS from taking custody of Rivers’ baby just two days after his birth. Rivers’ lawsuit against ACS argued that the organization’s own policy  published in 2019 even before legalization forbids separating a mother and child for cannabis use alone.

“Positive marijuana toxicology of an infant or the mother at the time of birth is not sufficient, in and of itself, to support a determination that the child is maltreated, nor is such evidence alone sufficient for ACS to take protective custody of (remove) a child or file a case in Family Court,” – Excerpt taken from “ACS Policy and Practice on Cases Involving Marijuana Use by Patients.”

The Daily News article said that the whole situation began when Rivers told her doctors and nurses she had consumed cannabis at a family gathering just hours before arriving at the hospital. A drug test was allegedly taken without Rivers’ consent, the results of which came back positive for cannabis both in Rivers and her baby. Two days later, an order was issued by ACS to the hospital to retain custody of the baby and not release him to Rivers.

“Just days postpartum, [Rivers] had to travel in physical pain every day, to go to the hospital to be able to visit with her baby, because they wouldn’t let them be together,” said Niji Jain to the Imprint. Jain was lead counsel in the case and is director of the Impact Litigation Practice at Bronx Defenders.

In total the baby was separated from Rivers for one week, during the course of which she had to travel to and from the hospital so she could see the child while she was simultaneously traveling to and from court in an attempt to get a judge to intervene, which is exactly what happened. A judge granted an emergency order and Rivers regained custody of her son, only to face several more months of inquiries, home visits, drug tests and state-mandated anger management and parenting courses. RIvers’ lawsuit alleged she was singled out and discriminated against due to her race. 

“I didn’t just bring this lawsuit for myself, but for every Black family that ACS has ripped apart. They know what they did was wrong and now they’re on notice,” Rivers said in a statement released through her lawyers.

A spokesperson for ACS gave a statement on the matter after the conclusion of the lawsuit, saying they evaluate each case individually but reiterating that cannabis use alone does not necessarily mean the child is being harmed.

“In all of our cases, including those with substance misuse allegations, we assess child safety on a case-by-case basis, looking at actual or potential harm to a child and the parent’s capacity to care for the child,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “State and city policy is that a parent’s use of marijuana is not in and of itself a basis for indicating a report or filing a neglect case. This means that a case should not be indicated solely because a parent is using marijuana, but instead a child protective specialist should assess the impact, if any, on the safety and well-being of the child.”

Outside of the settlement she received, Rivers’ case is not unique. Substance abuse and cannabis use are regularly used as justification to remove newborns from their mother’s custody, and a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in April of this year found that Black mothers were disproportionately more likely to receive drug testing at birth than white mothers, 2.2% more likely to be exact. 

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New York Supreme Court Judge Lifts Injunction for Small Number of Cannabis Licenses

New York Supreme Court Justice Judge Kevin Bryant recently lifted a temporary injunction that previously halted approval for any state cannabis licenses on Aug. 25. However, only 30 licensees are currently affected by the decision compared to the statewide total of more than 400 applications that are still on hold. 

“As such, those licenses identified by the office of cannabis management will be deemed exempt from the injunction,” Bryant said about his decision.

Those 30 licensees were labeled “ready to open” by both the Cannabis Control Board and the city in which they will operate. According to a PIX11 news report, applicants could potentially become exempt from the injunction if they need their dispensary income to help them financially. “The Judge’s August 18 order outlined certain factors and our job as attorneys representing CAURD licenses is to ensure that our clients are protected and that they fit within an exemption so we need to work to make sure they’re in line with the judge’s order,” said Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) attorney Jorge Luis Vasquez.

In response to Byrant’s most recent decision, the Office of Cannabis Management issued a statement regarding exemptions for those provisional licensees. “While today’s ruling is a disappointment, we are committed to working with the Cannabis Control Board to find a way forward that does not derail our efforts to bring the most equitable cannabis market in the nation to life.”

The lawsuit began on Aug. 2 when a group of military veterans introduced a lawsuit against the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) and New York Cannabis Control Board, claiming that those agencies did not set up a properly working cannabis industry as stated in the state’s CAURD license, state officials prioritized “justice involved” applicants over disabled veteran applicants.

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act was originally signed in March 2021 by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and includes a list of five “social and economic equity” groups that would receive priority for a cannabis license: distressed farmers, individuals who live in areas disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs, minority-owned businesses, service-disabled veterans, and women-owned businesses.

The lawsuit includes Carmine Fiore (who served eight years in the Army and National Guard), Dominic Spaccio (who spent six years in the U.S. Air Force), William Norgard (a former Army veteran), and Steve Mejia (with six years spent in the Air Force), who are represented by attorneys Brian Thomas Burns, Selbie Lee Jason, and Patrick Joseph Smith, of Clark Smith Villazor.

According to plaintiff Fiore, he and other veterans helped get cannabis legalized, but now are being denied an opportunity to take part in the state’s legal industry and “cast aside for a separate agenda,” Fiore told CBS News.

“From the beginning, our fight has always been for equal access to this new and growing industry,” a joint statement from all four veterans said. “We look forward to working with the state and the court to open the program to all eligible applicants.”

As a result, Judge Bryant issued an injunction on Aug. 7 that prevented the New York Office of Cannabis Management from approving licenses for any new cannabis stores temporarily. In a hearing on Aug. 18, Bryant extended the injunction and said that the CAURD program is in “legal jeopardy,” and predicted that the OCM’s decision not to award licenses to the veteran defendants caused “irreparable harm.”

Clark Smith Villazor released a statement on LinkedIn in response to Bryant’s decision last week. “In a ruling today in favor of Clark Smith Villazor LLP’s four service-disabled veteran clients seeking to enter New York’s nascent retail marijuana industry, a New York State Supreme Court Justice issued a preliminary injunction that largely halts the processing of allegedly unconstitutional conditional adult-use retail dispensary (CAURD) licenses in the cannabis industry,” the firm wrote about the ruling on Aug. 18. “In a 16-page decision, Justice Kevin Bryant found that CSV’s clients ‘presented persuasive and compelling authority’ that the state regulators ‘failed to follow the clear language of the applicable legislation’ by failing to open the retail-dispensary application period to everyone at the same time, including to priority groups like service-disabled veterans.”

Currently, only 23 licensed cannabis stores are open for business in New York, and the decision has halted all progress and is negatively impacting cannabis owners across the state.

Last week, CEO of CONBUD, Coss Marte told High Times how prior to cannabis legalization in New York, 94% of cannabis-related arrests included Black and Latino residents. “We’ve paid our dues. We’ve done the time, and if there’s one thing we hope for the world and the court to know, it’s that like cannabis, we’re here for good and we are here to stay,” Marte said. “We had the opportunity to be heard and to fight on behalf of all of our fellow CAURD licensees who will experience irreparable harm if they’re barred from operating their businesses, and we are confident and hopeful that the court wants a swift resolution that honors the original promises made to justice-impacted license holders.”

The Cannabis Control Board is set to hold a meeting on Sept. 12 to vote on state licensing regulations. “I want this to be as easy as possible, I don’t want to waste unnecessary time,” Bryant said, who also scheduled the next hearing of the case for Sept. 15.

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Harlem Set To Open First Legal Dispensary

It is a celebratory time in one of New York City’s most historic neighborhoods, which will open its first legal marijuana dispensary next week. 

The dispensary, known as Gotham Buds, has a “tentative grand opening” scheduled on September 5 at its location just across the street from the iconic Apollo Theater, according to CBS New York.

The local news station noted that the opening of the business has faced “some pushback from the community.”

A Harlem-based business group called the 125th Street Business Improvement District filed a lawsuit in April with the New York Supreme Court, claiming that the “the process was conducted secretly in order to avoid opposition from the community.”

“We’ve taken this action to really create transparency and to create a channel of communication to understand why this location,” Mukaram Taheraly, chairman of the 125th Street Business Improvement District, said at the time, as quoted by CBS New York.

The station explained that it was “the first case challenging the process state regulators use to choose dispensary locations,” and that the lawsuit “accused the state of violating its own law against having a dispensary within 500 feet of a school, with Touro College, which teaches high school students, just a few doors away.”

But in a statement this week ahead of the scheduled opening of Gotham Buds, the 125th Street Business Improvement District hit a more welcoming note.

“We want all of our Harlem businesses to thrive, so we will do everything in our power to help make this be a success for Gotham Buds and our community,” the group said, as quoted by CBS New York.

New York legalized recreational cannabis for adults in 2021, when then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a measure into law. 

Many parts of the law took immediate effect, most notably the provision that enabled those 21 and older to have weed in their possession and to toke up wherever smoking is permitted. 

After Cuomo resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct in August of that year, he was succeeded by Kathy Hochul, who made it a priority to get the regulated marijuana market up and running.

The state’s first legal marijuana dispensary opened in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood in December of last year.

“We set a course just nine months ago to start New York’s adult-use cannabis market off on the right foot by prioritizing equity, and now, we’re fulfilling that goal,” Hochul said in a statement at the time. “The industry will continue to grow from here, creating inclusive opportunity in every corner of New York State with revenues directed to our schools and revitalizing communities.”

Under an unprecedented social equity initiative, at least the first 100 dispensary licenses awarded in the Empire State are being awarded to individuals with previous cannabis-related convictions.

“New York State is making history, launching a first-of-its-kind approach to the cannabis industry that takes a major step forward in righting the wrongs of the past,” Hochul said in her announcement of the initiative last year. “The regulations advanced by the Cannabis Control Board today will prioritize local farmers and entrepreneurs, creating jobs and opportunity for communities that have been left out and left behind. I’m proud New York will be a national model for the safe, equitable and inclusive industry we are now building.”

Known as the Seeding Opportunity Initiative, the program “guarantees support for future equity applicants, and secures an early investment into communities most impacted by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition,” the governor’s office said at the time.

“Our state’s Cannabis Law sets a high goal for creating an equitable industry that puts New Yorkers first,” Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright said in the announcement at the time. “The Seeding Opportunity Initiative puts us on a path for achieving that goal and hopefully models a way forward for reaching those goals while building a stable market. I am thankful for the support of Governor Hochul and the Legislature, which made it possible for us to get this initiative off the ground quickly, establish a supply chain from our farmers to equity, retailers, and generate the resources to help revitalize communities that were harmed by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition.” 

The allocation of dispensary licenses has so far been delayed by legal challenges. In a lawsuit filed earlier this month, a group of military veterans challenged the policy of awarding licenses to those with prior convictions. As a result of the lawsuit, a New York judge extended an injunction on the issuing of additional cannabis dispensary licenses until the matter reaches a resolution. 

“That pushes this from being late to the party to potentially exiled from the process,” Brian Burns, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said earlier this month.

“I don’t think you can quantify how being subjected to an unconstitutional program impacts a person,” Burns added.

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New York Weed License Pause Extended Two Weeks as Shop Owners Protest

A judge’s order forcing a temporary pause on the issuing of cannabis dispensary licenses in New York was extended for two weeks on Friday as business owners impacted by the injunction rallied outside an Ulster County courthouse to plead their case. Supreme Court Justice Kevin Bryant withheld a ruling at a hearing in a legal challenge to New York’s cannabis dispensary regulations brought by a group of military veterans, setting a new hearing in the case for August 25. 

Bryant’s ruling keeps in place a temporary injunction issued last week barring the New York Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) from issuing new Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses or further processing approved licenses, preventing licensees from getting their businesses up and running.

Lawsuit Filed By Veterans

The lawsuit was filed earlier this month by four veterans who have served a combined total of more than two decades in various branches of the U.S. military. The vets argue that restricting retail licenses to those with cannabis convictions violates the state Constitution and was not approved by the legislature when it legalized adult-use cannabis two years ago.

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, the 2021 law that legalized recreational marijuana in New York, includes provisions that set a goal of awarding at least half of the state’s recreational marijuana dispensaries to social and economic equity applicants. Under a program launched by New York Governor Kathy Hochul last year, the state’s first CAURD licenses for retail cannabis shops have been reserved for “individuals most impacted by the unjust enforcement of the prohibition of cannabis or nonprofit organizations whose services include support for the formerly incarcerated.” 

To be eligible for a CAURD license, applicants must either have had a cannabis conviction or be the family member of someone with a cannabis conviction, among other criteria. Nonprofits with a history of serving formerly or currently incarcerated individuals were also eligible to apply for a CAURD license. So far, the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), the state’s cannabis regulatory agency, has issued 463 CAURD licenses, although less than two dozen dispensaries have opened statewide.

Brian Burns, an attorney representing the four plaintiffs, said at Friday’s hearing that his clients have been denied the CAURD program’s benefits for early licensees, including access to strictly regulated retail locations.

“That pushes this from being late to the party to potentially exiled from the process,” Burns told the Democrat Chronicle.

“I don’t think you can quantify how being subjected to an unconstitutional program impacts a person,” Burns said when asked by reporters to detail the potential harm done to the veterans caused by the CAURD program.

At Friday’s hearing, Bryant also set a deadline of 5:00 p.m. Tuesday for litigants to file revised arguments in the case. It is possible the judge could make a ruling based on those filings, according to media reports, but Bryant’s decision is more likely to come at the hearing scheduled for August 25.

Licensees Rally Against Lawsuit

Outside the courtroom in Kingston, New York, a group of cannabis business owners rallied to describe how the injunction is impacting their businesses and to encourage Bryant to dismiss the lawsuit. Many noted that a delay in opening additional licensed retailers will prolong the influence unlicensed operators have on New York’s recreational cannabis market.

Coss Marte, CEO of CONBUD, a CAURD-licensed business with a mission to hire previously incarcerated individuals, joined with three other licensees to file a motion at Friday’s hearing to give impacted entrepreneurs a voice in the proceedings. He notes that only three years ago, before the legalization of cannabis, Black and Latino New Yorkers made up 94% of New York City’s drug arrests, usually for simple possession.

“We’ve paid our dues. We’ve done the time, and if there’s one thing we hope for the world and the court to know, it’s that like cannabis, we’re here for good and we are here to stay,” Marte said in a statement to High Times. 

“We had the opportunity to be heard and to fight on behalf of all of our fellow CAURD licensees who will experience irreparable harm if they’re barred from operating their businesses, and we are confident and hopeful that the court wants a swift resolution that honors the original promises made to justice-impacted license holders,” he added.

CAURD Licensee Josh Canfield said that Bryant’s order is forcing business owners who were only days away from opening to delay their plans. In the meantime, a settlement in the case could put things back on track.

“The judge extended the temporary [injunction] that suspends all CAURD operations that are not operational at this time including the ones that were slated to open as soon as next week,” Canfield wrote in an email to High Times. “The judge has urged all parties to try and work together to come up with a solution that is fair to each side, and to do that by the next time they convene in court.” 

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New York Judge Pauses Cannabis Dispensary Licensing

A New York judge on Monday issued a temporary injunction barring state cannabis regulators from issuing licenses for retail marijuana dispensaries in response to a lawsuit challenging the rules for obtaining the lucrative permits. A group of military veterans filed the lawsuit last week, arguing that the state’s rules limiting the first Conditional Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses to those with previous marijuana convictions violates state law and New York’s Constitution.

The lawsuit was filed by four veterans who have served a combined total of more than two decades in various branches of the U.S. military. The vets argue that restricting retail licenses to those with cannabis convictions violates the state Constitution and was not approved by the legislature when it legalized adult-use cannabis two years ago.

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, the 2021 law that legalized recreational marijuana in New York, includes provisions that set a goal of awarding at least half of the state’s recreational marijuana dispensaries to social and economic equity applicants. Under a program launched by New York Governor Kathy Hochul last year, the state’s first CAURD licenses for retail cannabis shops have been reserved for “individuals most impacted by the unjust enforcement of the prohibition of cannabis or nonprofit organizations whose services include support for the formerly incarcerated.” 

To be eligible for a CAURD license, applicants are required to either have had a cannabis conviction or be the family member of someone with a cannabis conviction, among other criteria. Nonprofits with a history of serving formerly or currently incarcerated individuals were also eligible to apply for a CAURD license. So far, the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), the state’s cannabis regulatory agency, has issued 463 CAURD licenses, although less than two dozen dispensaries have opened statewide.

Matt Morey, an attorney and legal analyst, says that the MRTA established service-disabled veterans as a sub-class of social and economic equity applicants who could be given priority in cannabis licensing. But so far, the OCM has only approved applications from justice-involved individuals.

“The statute specifically included those individuals as individuals that would be prioritized with respect to applying for and gaining approval of an adult use retail license,” Morey told Spectrum News.

The veterans who filed the lawsuit last week argue that the state’s implementation of the CAURD program unfairly and improperly excludes other potential social and economic equity applicants, including disabled veterans and members of minority groups.

“Individuals like service-disabled veterans, who are also social equity applicants, who should be prioritized under the MRTA – the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act – the plaintiffs are arguing that they’ve been harmed by being left out of this first mover’s advantage,” said Fatima Afia, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

William Norgard, a U.S. Army veteran and one of the plaintiffs in the case, said that New York’s implementation of MRTA puts him and other veterans in the unusual position of challenging the government.

“It’s out of character for a veteran to sue the state to uphold a law,” Norgard said in a statement when the lawsuit was filed. “We take oaths to defend the laws of our nation, and trust — maybe naively — that government officials will faithfully and legally execute those laws. What the Office of Cannabis Management is doing right now is in complete breach of that trust. As veterans, we know that someone has to hold the line.”

Order Bars OCM From Issuing New Licenses

The judge’s temporary restraining order bars the OCM from issuing or processing additional licenses for marijuana retailers until the court rules otherwise. When asked for comment after the lawsuit was filed, an OCM spokesperson said the agency does not comment on pending litigation. Later, the agency said it had received the injunction and would comply with the judge’s ruling.

“The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) is aware of the Court’s Order and is adhering to its requirements,” the agency wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “We are actively communicating with CAURD applicants and provisionally approved licensees to inform them of the impact of the Court’s order on OCM operations.”

State Senator Jeremy Cooney, the chair of the New York State Senate Subcommittee on Cannabis, released a statement on Monday evening in response to the judge’s temporary injunction.

“I am deeply disappointed in today’s court decision, which temporarily stops the awarding of conditional cannabis retail licenses in New York State,” said Cooney. “It is no secret that New York’s adult-use cannabis roll-out has been slower than expected, and now is not the time to stand in the way of progress made. We must focus on awarding non-conditional licenses, which will prioritize social equity candidates and allow more businesses to open.”

The judge’s restraining order will cause further delay in the rollout of New York’s regulated marijuana industry, which is already facing steep challenges and an entrenched illicit cannabis market.

“This is going to drag things out even further,” Morey said. “This has not been a smooth rollout by any means with respect to these programs.”

Morey said that the dispensary licenses already issued face no immediate jeopardy from the judge’s ruling. But if the regulations governing licensing are ruled invalid, the fate of current licensees could be uncertain.

“If the creation of the entire CAURD program is deemed to be unconstitutional, then that would then raise the question as to whether or not previously issued licenses are in fact invalid at this point under the program, and that remains to be seen,” he said.

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Study Ranks New York City as Top Cannabis-Consuming City in the World

According to a new study, New York City consumes more cannabis out of any city in the world, at 62.3 metric tons (approximately 137,000 pounds) per year. The study, compiled as the “2023 Cannabis Global Price Index,” was conducted by health information resource CFAH, which collected data on cannabis prices from 140 cities worldwide.

In addition to exploring the highest cannabis-consuming cities in the world, the research explored the cities with the most and least expensive cannabis and the price trajectory for cannabis in the U.S.

Which Cities Consume the Most Cannabis?

CFAH examined the top and bottom cannabis-consuming nations in order to hone in on the study cities, noting the legal status of cannabis in each region. Researchers then chose the final list of 140 cities to display the “best comparison of the global cannabis price.” Prices per gram were obtained through crowdsourced, city-level polls adjusted to the PriceOfWeed dashboard and UNODC World Drug Report.

To track total consumption, CFAH used figures collected from the World Health Organization (WHO), and the U.S. price trajectory figures were calculated through Seasonal AutoRegressive Integrated Moving Average (SARIMA), a model used to account for patterns in data.

New York City has a pretty major lead on other cities when it comes to cannabis consumption. Sydney, Australia ranked second, despite the illegal status of cannabis in the country, at 45.8 metric tons per year, about 17 metric tons less than the Big Apple. Los Angeles ranked third, at 35 metric tons per year, followed by Chicago at 24.9 metric tons and Rome, Italy at 21.9 metric tons per year.

The list ranks the top 20 cities. From sixth to 20th, it includes (in order): Houston, Texas; Toronto, Canada; Tokyo, Japan; Prague, Czech Republic; Vienna, Austria; Hamburg, Germany; Phoenix, Arizona; Montreal, Canada; Melbourne, Australia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Vancouver, Canada; Uskudar, Turkey; Dublin, Ireland; Denver, Colorado and Annapolis, Canada.

Which Cities Have the Most and Least Expensive Cannabis?

Cannabis is illegal and highly criminalized in Japan, but for people looking to toke up anyway, they’ll have to pay a pretty penny. Tokyo ranked as the city with the most expensive cannabis, at $33.8 per gram. Dublin, Ireland and Tallinn, Estonia followed at $22.50 and $22.10 per gram, respectively. 

Montreal, Canada had the least expensive cannabis according to the study, at just $5.90 per gram. Bangalore, India and Notre Dame, Canada followed, at $6 and $6.20 per gram, respectively.

While it’s a common assumption that legality may mean wider availability, ultimately leading to lower prices, both the most and least expensive cannabis cities were well-balanced when it came to legal or illegal status. The top 10 most expensive cannabis cities include six cities where cannabis is illegal and four where it’s legal. The least expensive cannabis cities vary only slightly, with six cities where cannabis is legal and four where it’s illegal.

Forecasting Future Cannabis Prices in the U.S.

Researchers used SARIMA to project future trends for cannabis prices in the U.S. The time-series forecasting model takes both the trend and seasonality of the data into account — “It combines the autoregressive, integrated, and moving average models with seasonal components to capture the trend, seasonality, and random fluctuations in a time series,” according to the study.

Looking at a CFAH graph of prices over the past 30 years, namely the erratic zigzagging through the decades, it may feel like a shot in the dark to truly predict the price of cannabis in the future. Still, CFAH predicts that the price of cannabis per gram in America could fall to an average of $5.61 per gram by 2030.

Given the trends of several legal cannabis states in the U.S. as of late, it’s perhaps not surprising to expect a continued price drop, especially as the market continues to grow and with the potential of federal legalization to come. 

Regarding New York’s status as the heaviest cannabis consuming state across the globe? Odds are that the city will maintain the title, especially as the recreational market continues to get off the ground. 

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From the Archives: New York, Mon Amour (1979)

By Victor Bockris

1) At London’s Gatwick Airport, I went straight to the cafeteria, stationed myself at a deserted corner table, put an opium pellet on my tongue and washed it down with two cups of tepid tea, apparently a catalyst.

On a jammed Laker flight to New York, I managed to read three novels undisturbed by the monster pushing my seat forward, the two monsters in front pushing their seats backward and the Frenchman beside me growing his beard, because airplanes make me feel secure. Soon they’ll have bedrooms again, and since the greatest American fantasy is sky sex, one can almost guarantee the runaway success of airplane bedrooms. They’ll be quite expensive, but that’ll make you want to make more money so you can do it.

Opium facilitates that magic-carpet effect; it completely relaxes your body, and hence your mind, without blurring it. You could function quite efficiently as a lawyer, doctor or bank clerk on opium. At Kennedy, I relaxed during the grueling hour it took to struggle through passport control, and baggage claim, and Customs. The opium cut out any concern. I languidly smoked a cigarette, leaning up against a post, confident that my torn, battered bag, peppered with pellets from a Colt .45 air pistol, would arrive intact. While gazing at the friendly crowd, all undoubtedly as relieved as I was to be back in the USA, I reflected on my escape from London.

The British have always been as cold and insular as their landscape. The only reason they can rock is because they are so pissed off with their sodden little plot in the Atlantic. How small, gray, inauspicious and powerless it is. The blond English youth rattles the bars of his cage before being given the national tranquilizer. Everyone was reading newspapers about sex murders and child pornography. London may be the first deathtrap to go.

The population is splitting the city’s resources at the seams. My memory presents turgid crowds trudging down Oxford Street inhaling stale little cigarettes. After visiting England three times in the last six months, this reporter’s firm conclusion is that the English bite it. Throughout Europe there still exists a distaste for the American way of life, and the English, who distinguish themselves by nothing so much as their colds, have based their reactions to America on an ignorance developed through centuries of insularity. A typical example is their preconceptions about New York, most of which are erroneous.

The first and most important is that it’s very expensive. New York is not a necessarily expensive place to live, but it can be a very expensive place to visit if you have to stay at a hotel and eat in restaurants. The visitor is urged to pry an invitation out of a friend. Otherwise stay at the Chelsea Hotel on 23rd Street.

The second is that it’s terribly dangerous. New York is not particularly dangerous if you know where you are and pay attention to your surroundings. There are more than enough people walking around stoned and drunk to keep the muggers working overtime.

The point about where you stay in New York is that the people of the area tend to have quite an effect on your life. Most of the action in Manhattan happens at night (the best new paper in town is called Night and is just pictures of people dancing by the famous photographer of girls’ legs Anton Perich), and this is why you have to think about where you’re going to hang out. For example, if you live up at 103rd and Broadway, you have to contend with the sex and drug markets up there at 3 A.M.; and living on the Lower East Side is like living in India. On the other hand, if you stay in the West Village or on the Upper East Side, it’s quite safe to move around as long as you aren’t too crazy. All the people I know who’ve been attacked were either too drunk or stoned or careless to be out on the streets alone. But why go anywhere alone anyway, unless you’re going to kill someone?

2) Here is a brief account of the natures of the people dwelling in the major residential sections:

The Upper West Side is noisy and dirty. Fat hairy people fall over in corners, sucking on paper bags, talking to themselves, coughing, spitting and dying. A friend recently moved to the Upper West Side. I said, “No, Linda, don’t go. You are in no condition to go up there.” But she went. Now she calls me up: “How could you ever let me come and live up here! Mandy’s already been assaulted five times! We’re moving. And it’s all your fault, because I had to move up here to get away from you in the first place.”

However, it can’t be all that bad, because a lot of famous people live up there, particularly in the Dakota, where John Lennon has a 17-room apartment.

The Upper East Side is where all the wealthiest people have their pieds-à-terre, from Jackie O. through Halston to Truman and Andy and Mick, and it’s easy to see why, because they have a lot of very nice accoutrements. The streets are clean, the area is heavily patrolled, the shops and buildings are exquisite. It feels like being up on a hill.

There are lots of places to go in the area, and all the best hotels are nearby. This is definitely the place, but since it’s so expensive a majority of the population is over 50, creating a slightly daffy atmosphere.

Greenwich Village. There is an East and a West Village. The West Village, where your reporter has one of numerous apartments at his disposal, must have the highest ratio of homosexuals in the world. This is basically gaydom. The battle over censorship has been won and so forth. It’s a very pleasant, completely peaceful area. I have never witnessed, heard of, or felt, any threat of violence. There are many attractive restaurants and stores. Everyone walks around hand in hand.

The East Village is inhabited by punks of all ages. They have always maintained that the East Village, also known as the Lower East Side, is the hip place to be, but a series of drug deaths, rapes and robberies in the late ’50s and early ’70s drove many tenants away. Now, however, with the emergence of punk on the rock scene, a lot of activity has been generated on the Lower East Side. Many people live down there, including Joey (“It sucks!”) Ramone, William Burroughs (who says he finds the people talking to themselves and dying in the street a useful contrast to his somewhat idyllic place in Colorado), Allen Ginsberg and Richard Hell, who wrote “Blank Generation” in a kitchen overlooking the BoWery.

Soho/Boho/Nolio. The so-called “Soho” area has become famous over the last five years as a kind of extension of the Greenwich Village all-artists-have-to-Iive-in-the-same-place-so-there-can-be-a-scene mentality. Soho is basically a series of warehouses turned into loft spaces in which people live and work. Central Soho is a pleasant and expensive place. It broadens out in myriad directions, being so far downtown that it can’t be interrupted until Wall Street, and some lower Soho locations are quite dangerous. The streets are empty, poorly lit and hardly patrolled. Some maniacs live down there, and they come out at night.

Generally speaking, if you see someone lying on the street bleeding or not bleeding, vomiting or not vomiting, if you see someone staggering down the street on their last legs with eyes closed, if you see someone holding a heated debate with themselves while head banging, don’t do anything. These are leftovers from Ramones hits. They won’t hurt you if you don’t approach them.

3) The best places to go are parties. The fastest blood is connected by a never-ending flow of business parties, and everyone is always on the lookout for new people. Get invited to as many as you can. This could be difficult, but not impossible, if you don’t know any people. It probably isn’t hard to crash that big loft party downtown tonight. At most big parties the host only knows 25 percent of the guests, so you can always say, “1 came with Joan … DeMcnille. Barbara Braden?” A little cocaine will take care of any problem if the host should attempt to eject you. But really one of the best things about New York is everybody always wants to meet somebody new.

Suddenly, you’re staying with me overnight, as a houseguest, in my apartment in the West Village. There are two bedrooms. I let you have one of them to do whatever you want in because they’re far away from each other and there’s a separate bathroom.

You are extremely lucky. Tonight I have an invitation to go to Richard Avedon’s party at the Metropolitan Museum. The invitation, like all good invitations, admits two. It says black tie, so you have to get dressed up. You don’t have anything to wear?

Quick, run down to Manic Panic, that store on St. Marks Place that sells all those punk clothes. Punks always look like jewels, so if you get something there, you’ll be okay. You could go to Trash and Vaudeville or Revenge; they all have lots of stuff for not so much money. That’s on the Lower East Side, and since it’s a picturesque and sunny day, you can walk.

4) Me: So you went and got a great outfit for $25, and what else happened?

You: I forget.

Me: You ran into William Burroughs on the street, didn’t you?

You: That’s right.

Me: And he was with a guy who you know from Kansas who’s his secretary now, that big Negro.

You: He is not a Negro, he’s a Swede.

Me: I thought he was from Kansas.

You: That’s where all the Swedes went.

Me: Why aren’t the stars in the sky tonight?

You: Because they’re all on the ground.

Me: Well, we got in at… what time was it?

You: I forget. I didnt look. Were you drunk again?

Me: No, not really.

You: Then why were you running down the street being chased by that girl in the black dress with the…

Me: No, I was just running away from her, because she started to say mean things about someone I like and I didn’t want to hear it. I couldn’t stand it. Did you enjoy the party? Who did you see there?

You: Oh, Linda McCartney. Um… Buck Henry.

Me: Buck Henry! Who was he with?

You: He’s been hanging around with Al Goldstein over at Death magazine.

Me: How come?

You: Search me.

Me: I don’t want to. So who else did you see?

You: Er… Carole Bouquet.

Me: Who’s she?

You: She was in that Buñuel film, That Obscure Object of Desire.

Me: How do you pronounce it?

You: I don’t know. She was also in that movie with Richard Hell about being a punk rock star, and then he’s her guru or something and they move to the Upper East Side.

Me: I thought he married Suki Love.

You: That was Ulli Lommel, the German guy who made the film. He married Suki Love, and they’re making a film right now called Cocaine Cowboys, starring Jack Palance and Tom Sullivan. It was a great party, I really liked it.

Me: What was great about it? Say something. Just talk about it, tell everybody.

You: Well, I liked it because it was the sort of beginning of the New York season, and a lot of people—I think 5,000 people—came, or something, and you had to wait 25 minutes just to get in, which was sort of great, because everyone was in evening clothes and rich and stuff like that, but they still had to stand outside, just like any jerk. Like us.

Me: Yeah, like us. We didn’t mind.

You: It was fun because all those people were so upset.

Me: Did Linda McCartney have to wait outside?

You: No, because she went to the dinner with Richard Avedon before the party.

Me: Was Andy there?

You: No, he went to see A Wedding instead.

Me: He went to see A Wedding! Who was he with?

You: Just a couple of beautiful girls, and they lost their limousine. But anyway, I also liked the party because you could stroll around the halls of the museum drinking and keep bumping into somebody. I noticed that A and B are back together.

Me: Again. I know. I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t believe it. And what was… he has a mustache now and she’s got a scar.

You: Well, scars are nice sometimes. It depends where they are. But anyway, did anyone have any drugs?

Me: Only C. C always has drugs.

You: So did you take some?

Me: Yes, and then D grabbed me and dragged me behind the door where they keep the brooms, and I thought, “God, this is so great, this is so great, sex in a broom closet at the Metropolitan Museum during a party for Richard Avedon!”

5) The United Nations is located on First Avenue between 42nd and 46th streets. I went there in a taxi. The U.N. is very nice because when you get there suddenly you are in a big international atmosphere, and there’s even a lawn. It is good to smoke a joint on the way over in the back of the cab with a breeze blowing in off the river as you go up First Avenue passing a heliport at 34th Street. You’re beginning to see the streets in the daytime, with all their charming mystery, weirdness and variety.

The U.N. is free. For nothing you can go and feel important listening seriously to the speeches by the mad representatives of various countries. It is all nonsense, but it is very tasteful. They were discussing South Africa when I dropped in and taking hours to tell the detailed bio of Steve Biko. One thing I noticed was that although the men looked nothing more than ordinary, most of the women were very attractive. It’s great to go there, because all the speeches are in foreign languages and you have to have an earplug so you can get a translation. If I was the translator, I know I would break in and say, “This sucks… ”

For $2 you can take a one-hour tour of the U.N. I don’t know about this bit. I was going to do it, but suddenly a woman screamed out, “The next tour will be in French only!” and I had to split. I couldn’t wait for a bunch of despicable frogs to walk around while I cooled my heels. I had places to go, things to do, people to see. This is New York! You can’t suddenly have a bunch of frogs rushing in, taking your time in Manhattan. Just tell them you haven’t got that much time. They’ll respect you and treat you better. It’s like when you take a phone call, a lot of the time they answer it with a record, the premise being that you will sit idly by listening until they’re ready to talk to you. Hang up and tell them in no uncertain terms that whenever you hear machines you always hang up.

There’s also a really good dining room called the Delegates’ Dining Room where you can go and pretend you’re delegates, or trick your new girl friend, or something.

I didn’t know what to do next, so I went and had lunch at this restaurant called Mortimer’s on 75th and Lexington with Catherine Guinness, who works in magazines here, and she told me that more of the really elegant fashion mags were coming to Manhattan from Europe with a lot of money, because they really believe that people want to be more elegant, as Diane Von Furstenberg and Halston have proved. And then I went to the Stock Exchange, about which I apparently wrote: “One of the best things is the New York Stock Exchange, 20 Broad Street, way downtown. It’s pretty hard to figure out what’s going on here, but everyone is running around making or losing money, basically. The relative informality of the whole operation is a little unsettling. It looks like a vast betting shop, and 25 1/2 million Americans own stock. The most striking thing about my visit was how bad the women in the area looked. I think all that counting gets to them.

6) There’s no point in going to all the great in places in New York before you meet some people, some New Yorkers being New Yorkers around their local watering holes. You could go to CBGB if you like rock ’n’ roll. There’s always a lot of people there, and you can talk to them, pretty much. I mean, they’re nice people and you can be very straightforward and say, “I come from X and I just got here and where should I go?” If you choose the wrong person and he’s catatonic, don’t get put off, just ask the next person. If you go to CBGB, be sure to take a cab and to get into a cab as soon as you leave, because it is on the Bowery and sometimes the people down there get quite irate late at night and rush up to hit you or piss on you, an unnerving experience and not funny when it happens when there’s no one else around, no cops and so forth. But basically CBGB is a lot of fun, and lots of kids are standing around outside banging their heads against the wall.

If you think you can get in, go to Studio 54. There is a lot of ambivalent feeling about Studio 54, but as anthropologist Peter Beard says, “You’ve got to think of it as an animals’ watering hole—it’s the number-one water hole in the universe. There’s the anthropology corner, where you find the greeting behavior, displacement behavior; the bisexual bathroom hallway; the subterranean hardcore; and the theater balcony.” For other meeting places, look in the newspapers. About all the Village Voice and the Soho Weekly News are good for is their listings. Papers worth buying for information are Interview, Punk and Night.

Going out at night in New York, use cabs. If you can afford to do it, rent a limousine for one night’s entertainment, because it’s worth seeing Manhattan from that perspective. Also the limousine drivers can be very friendly. They’ll smoke a joint and take you up to Harlem in the middle of winter to look at the hundreds of junkies shuffling on the corners, and past the Apollo theater, or crawl around Hudson Street gay-barhopping, or cruise the streets for pickups. Just like in the movies.

After a while, New York becomes a movie set. Did we already use that quote? But it’s so good we can use it again. Why aren’t the stars in the sky? Because they’re on the streets. I mean, it’s amazing how many talented and wonderful people are wandering around, and you see them all the time. I bumped into Lou Reed only yesterday. He was looking for a new apartment. “Victor, meet the Moose,” he said. I turned around and there was this guy seven feet tall and broad with it.

Everybody thinks that New Yorkers think New York is the center of the world, and they’re always saying how New York thinks it’s such a big cheese. But that’s really not true. New Yorkers know that America is a great expansive country, fascinating, completely different all over, and they want to see Santa Fe and Minneapolis, Tampa, Fort Worth. No one in New York ever says anything bad about America or tries to put down Arizona. But, boy, you just wait till you get out to Colorado or San Francisco, and even the hotel clerk and the bellboy are congratulating you. “You made it out. You got away from Death City!” “That town of gangsters!” “Boy are you lucky!” And they shake your hand and insist you stay a while. Personally, I can never wait to get back to Manhattan.

You don’t get a good look at Manhattan when you fly in on a jet, because the airport is in Queens. Meanwhile, the secret of Manhattan is to see it from the air, because Manhattan is a city that grows upward. So, the first thing to do in Manhattan is get higher than the city.

Flying is an elegant sport, and you could benefit from doing it more, anyway. The first thing to do in Manhattan is jump in a cab and tell the driver, “The heliport at 34th Street and East River Drive.” Anytime between 9:30 A.M. and 4:30 P.M. a four-seater helicopter will take you up. It is a good eye-opener. You see big blue swimming poois and big green tennis courts on top of high-rise apartment buildings. You note the very different looks of the different sections of Manhattan: an incredible array of architectural forms in the variety of buildings on the Upper East Side; the bombed-out look of the Lower East Side. You fly directly past the tops of skyscrapers. As the chopper cuts across the East River to touch down on the island’s edge, the buildings rapidly move up at you and develop into their frames just like in famous pictures. You see the whole island through a kaleidoscope as the planes of the buildings tilt. It’s a quite different view, and the seven minute ride is more than a bargain for $9 (minimum of two people).

There is also a boat (the Circle Line at 43rd Street and 12th Avenue) that goes around the whole island while a loudspeaker tells what you’re passing. It takes two and one-half hours and costs $6. I slept through the first half of the trip, but there were two good parts: when you go around the top of the island, it’s pretty fucked up; and, when you sail past the Upper West Side, the line of apartment buildings along the edge of the island looks like the forbidding wall of a giant medieval fortress. Manhattan is a fortress. As you walk along the streets you will feel as if you are “inside” the city. It even has a moat.

As soon as you get off the boat, head east toward 34th Street until you come to the Empire State Building, which is at Fifth Avenue. Take an elevator to the 86th floor ($1.70) and go out on the observation deck, where visibility runs up to 25 miles on a clear day. The observation deck faces north, south, west and east. Take a good look in all four directions and you will get a pretty firm hold on the layout, which will be useful when you think you’re lost.

7) Another lens to look at New York through is provided by the lobbies, bars, restaurants and—if you can make it—rooms of our most elegant hotels. Start at the Carlyle, tea between four and four-thirty in the afternoon. This is where the Kennedys stay. Warren Beatty has a home on the top floor so he can be three blocks away from Diane Keaton. You can’t stay there together unless you’re married.

The Pierre and the Sherry-Netherland, situated next to each other between 59th and 61st Streets, are the two major hotels for the major celebrities. Their majestic towers rise like sentinels of elegance over Central park, and as you look up at them from the avenue, you know that on any given day Mick Jagger, Francis Ford Coppola, David Bowie or Max Von Sydow may be gazing down upon you.

Go to the Sherry-Netherland for an evening cocktail and make use of their telephone-at-the-table service to call somebody up and impress them by having them call you back. Try and sit in the lobby of the Pierre for as long as you can some mid-week afternoon, just to see who’s floating through. The rich look different because they keep different hours and can afford invisible makeup. If you look like you’re waiting for someone seriously (carrying a tape recorder, for example), no one will bother you.

Across the street from the Pierre you will see the Plaza, which you may remember, as you stand gazing at it, used to be the home of Eloise, a very sophisticated girl who lived there on her own and liked it very much. Unfortunately, Eloise has long flown the coop, and the Plaza has recently been computerized. And word has come out that even the music of the violinist in the Palm Court Lounge has been bowdlerized. Go instead to the St. Regis, hidden in the shadows of 55th Street just off Fifth Avenue. This is where Salvador Dali lives in the winter. And I met Sissy Spacek there once. She was standing in a green velvet lounge wearing a green velvet dress…

Manhattan is 12 1/2 miles long and 2 1/2 miles wide at its widest point, covering an area of 23 square miles. It has what a clerk at the census bureau described as “an incredible population density of 66,923 people per square mile.” A square mile—consider stuffing 66,923 people in it. 1,416,700 people live in Manhattan, but the population is gradually decreasing. The per capita income is $6,307. An interesting figure. The island is connected by 19 bridges, four tunnels and 11 subway lines to the mainland.

High Times Magazine, February 1979

Read the full issue here.

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New York Approves New Retail Licenses, Cannabis Farmers Markets

New York cannabis regulators this week approved more than 200 additional retail dispensary licenses and adopted new rules that will allow cannabis growers to sell directly to consumers at farmers markets. Characterizing the moves as “bold actions to swiftly grow the state’s legal cannabis market,” the New York State Cannabis Control Board (CCB) and the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) announced the developments on Wednesday in a bid to shore up the state’s licensed marijuana operators.

At a meeting on July 19, the board approved 212 additional Conditional Adult Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses, bringing the total number issued to 463. Under an initiative spearheaded by New York Governor Kathy Hochul, the state’s first licenses for retail weed shops have been reserved for “individuals most impacted by the unjust enforcement of the prohibition of cannabis or nonprofit organizations whose services include support for the formerly incarcerated.”

“The provisional approval of today’s 212 CAURD licenses by the Cannabis Control Board marks a momentous leap forward in our pursuit of an inclusive and fair cannabis industry,” Cannabis Control Board chair Tremaine Wright said in a statement from the OCM on Wednesday. “These licensees are demonstrative of the innovation and diversity of New York state.”

The board noted that it will continue to review additional CAURD license applications for consideration on a rolling basis. To be eligible for a CAURD license, applicants were required to either have had a cannabis conviction or be the family member of someone with a cannabis conviction, among other criteria. Nonprofits with a history of serving formerly incarcerated or currently incarcerated individuals were eligible to apply for a CAURD license.

Although nearly 500 CAURD licenses have now been issued, only 20 retail dispensaries have opened and begun serving customers. The first shop opened in the closing days of 2022, fulfilling Hochul’s promise to launch the regulated cannabis market before the end of the year. But since then, only 19 more dispensaries have opened, the most recent on Tuesday in Buffalo.

Board Approves Cannabis Farmers Markets

The slow rollout of retail dispensaries has left New York’s cannabis growers with a glut of regulated cannabis while allowing the illicit market to flourish. In a bid to prop up the licensed cultivators, on Wednesday the CCB also approved new rules to allow for farmers markets known as Cannabis Grower Showcases (CGS). Under the initiative, growers will be permitted to partner with conditional adult-use retailers and processors to organize events for showcasing New York brands and selling adult-use cannabis products to consumers.

Damian Fagon, the OCM’s chief equity officer, said that his experience as a former New York hemp farmer has given him a firsthand look at “how devastating it can be when a hard-fought harvest struggles to get to market.” 

“The Cannabis Growers Showcase was informed by those lived experiences, as well as by many difficult conversations with our growers and processors who justifiably wanted more avenues to share their products with New Yorkers,” said Fagon. “This initiative will not only increase sales and retail access throughout the state, but it will also connect New York consumers directly with local cannabis farmers and homegrown brands.”

Under the initiative, each CGS event will feature a minimum of three licensed cultivators partnering with a licensed adult-use dispensary to sell regulated cannabis products to consumers. CGS events will only be allowed in cities and towns that allow for retail cannabis sales and must have a predominantly adult population. Only New Yorkers aged 21 and over will be permitted to purchase cannabis and cannabis products. 

Additionally, one processor will also be able to sell cannabis products such as edibles, beverages and vape cartridges for every three cultivators. To ensure compliance and adherence to regulations, CGS participants are required to obtain municipal approval unless the event is held at a licensed retail dispensary where cannabis sales typically occur.

Michelle Bodian, a partner at the leading cannabis and psychedelic law firm Vicente LLP, welcomed the new licenses and rules to allow for cannabis farmers markets. But she is unsure if the moves will be sufficient to secure the success of New York’s regulated cannabis market. 

“More licenses and more sales opportunities are great ideas, but until we see the details, it’s unclear whether these actions will be enough by themselves to propel the licensed cannabis industry forward,” Bodian wrote in an email to High Times. “These opportunities are also only temporary and each stage of the supply chain needs permanent solutions so they have consistent cash flows in order to have a hope of being profitable.”

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NY State Senator Urges Aggressive Action on Unlicensed Cannabis Shops

A New York state senator wrote a letter to the state’s Office of Cannabis Management, urging leadership to engage in “aggressive action” on unlicensed cannabis retailers after witnessing them in his own neighborhood.

State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and representing New York’s 47th State Senate District on Manhattan’s West Side, is tired of unlicensed cannabis stores and dispensaries popping up across town.

Hoylman-Sigal wrote a public letter on July 17, addressed to Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Christopher Alexander and Tremaine Wright, chair of the Cannabis Control Board, urging action immediately.

“In the 2023 budget, the New York State Legislature granted additional authority to the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) and the Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) to address unlicensed cannabis stores,” Hoylman-Sigal wrote. “This includes conducting inspections, imposing civil penalties, and seeking injunctions to shut down stores. I am grateful to see OCM and DTF begin to take action. Given the serious issues caused by these stores, I urge OCM and DTF to continue to act quickly and aggressively to shut down these unlicensed stores.”

Hoylman-Sigal addressed the severity of the issue, including stores dotting Manhattan. 

“The scale of these unlicensed stores is staggering, with over 100 stores identified in Hell’s Kitchen alone. As I have expressed previously, these stores are deceptive to consumers, hazardous to public health, cheating on their taxes, undermining the State’s equity-based and legal cannabis rollout, and have little incentive to inspect IDs to ensure they are not selling to minors. Additionally, because these stores are unregulated and have little oversight, they pose a danger to employees and neighbors.”

Hoylman-Sigal went a step further to name dispensaries that are either unlicensed or have received complaints.

“I am enclosing a list of stores which have been reported to us by constituents as well as a list of unlicensed stores in Hell’s Kitchen compiled by the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Coalition. I urge OCM to act expeditiously to shut down these stores.”  

New York Takes Action on the Proliferation of Unlicensed Cannabis Shops

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is also ramping up efforts to tackle the illegal dispensary situation.

New York State Office of Cannabis Management and Department of Taxation and Finance began inspections of unlicensed shops in early June under a new law signed by Gov. Hochul a month prior in May.

The new law signed by the Governor in May is part of the State’s Fiscal Year 2024 Budget. The beefed up penalties include fines of up to $20,000 per day, used to discourage illegal activity.

“Under new powers that I fought for in this year’s State budget, we can now conduct enforcement against businesses illegally selling cannabis, and I’m proud to report that in just the first three weeks of our efforts, we’ve seized nearly $11 million worth of illicit products off the streets,” Governor Hochul said. “These unlicensed businesses violate our laws, put public health at risk, and undermine the legal cannabis market, and with the powerful new tools in our toolbelt we’re sending a clear and strong message: if you sell illegal cannabis in New York, you will be caught and you will be stopped.”

The New York City Council is also stepping in. At a meeting of the New York City Council last January, officials pledged increased enforcement against unlicensed cannabis retailers and said that the state legislature is drafting new legislation to give law enforcement additional powers to shut down illicit pot shops. For the time being, unlicensed stores are easy to find in the state.

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