Five months ago, state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to a plan legalizing cannabis and allowing the sale of cannabis products. But since then, regulations and guidance for how the emerging industry would be overseen in New York is yet to take shape.
New York's new cannabis industry is yet to move forward and that has some lawmakers worried, and calling for action.
"The Legislature passed landmark legislation to legalize adult use of recreational marijuana," said state Sen. Jeremy Cooney, a Democrat from Rochester. "But right now, that's turning out to be an empty promise."
Cooney on Tuesday announced legislation that would spur the process along, even as a top official for New York's Office of Cannabis Management is yet to be named.
"This legislation would allow seeds to be planted in the ground in New York to make sure we actually have a product that's ready to sale," Cooney said. "We feel that without having a fully functioning Office of Cannabis Management, we need to act now."
Allowing for the seeds to be planted now would give farmers a head start for the long process of bringing a full marijuana plant to maturity, which can then be used in cannabis products.
"I feel like everyone is frozen in time," Cooney said. "There was so much excitment after we passed the legislation. But now we're just waiting and waiting and waiting. We can't afford to miss another growing season."
Cannabis is projected to be a multi-million dollar industry for the state, with local governments potentially reaping the benefits, as well as communities hurt by the long-standing war on drugs. Advocates have long feared New York will lose out on revenue, too, from neighboring states that have far more advanced programs in place.
"What we know is those budgets won't mean anything if there's nothing to sell," Cooney said, "and we want to make sure there's actually revenue to be reinvested into communities."