By helbraunlevey on May 31, 2019 in Cannabis

Last Chance for Legal Weed in 2019?

Welcome to the 2nd installment of In The Weed, your timely dose of New York cannabis news brought to you by Helbraun Levey.

NY Recreational Marijuana Law Update

The politicians couldn’t agree on the law so they took it out of the Governor’s proposed budget with a new deadline of June 19th, the end of the Albany Legislative Session.  The week before the session ends, known as The Big Ugly,  is when the majority of the legislation that is being considered is either passed or buried in a flurry of last minute legislative activity.   If it’s not done by June 19th we will most likely have to wait until 2020.

Governor Cuomo is still signaling that he wants to get the law passed but he’s starting to hedge a bit calling the process a “large undertaking” and softening the certainty of his previously confident language.

Will it happen this year? Our  CannaMeter (based on our sources and our gut) now predicts a 60% chance of passage in June but we will know much more next month – so stay tuned.

Cannabis Road Tripping

We have been hitting the road and visiting cities where recreational cannabis is legal to get a better understanding of how it’s working, how they rolled it out and how the industry is developing in those states.

Here’s a look at what we found:


We took a trip to Boston in March to check out the adult use scene.  We looked around Fenway for a dispensary.  Nothing.  Same in Brookline.  We then discovered that there were no  dispensaries at all in Boston proper and this law passed last year!   So we went online and found the closest one 30 miles away in Springfield.  We were required to make an online reservation and when we arrived we were greeted with a line of 50 people waiting in the cold parking lot to get in.  Thirty minutes later, we passed through the dispensary doors and found a small size sales floor with almost no product. They had only 3 strains of flower and were out of edibles and that was that.

Quite an underwhelming experience as Massachusetts tries to figure out how to manage its cannabis industry.  We understand that since our visit, a dispensary has opened in Brookline and a few others have rolled out around the state as well. First, we have to deal with the Masshole sports fans and now they are also beating us at the cannabis game.  It’s upsetting. C’mon New York!!


We headed out to Denver in April and found the market much more mature, organized and professional than any other really.  Denver has been legal since 2013 and it shows in the level of sophistication of the cannabis companies that operate there.  We toured an indoor grow facility, an edible processing plant and a cutting edge dispensary.  All of them humming along as Colorado has implemented pro-business cannabis laws that allow operators to run profitably.

We know that the framers of the New York Rec law have consulted with the wise elders of the Colorado marijuana movement so let’t hope they heed their advice, learn from their mistakes and follow their lead.

Los Angeles

LA has had legal weed in one form or another longer than any other state.  Currently though, it’s a mess out there.  The Cannabis Commission has not cracked down on non-licensed dispensaries who have not had to add the state tax to the sale and it’s driving the legal mom and pops out of business while creating a booming, out-in-the-open black market. After all, why would a buyer pay more for the same product she can get down the street at a lower price?  LA needs to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to tax cannabis without gouging the customer.

On a positive note, the town of West Hollywood has issued the first on-premise consumption licenses in the country.  Los Angelenos will be able to purchase and smoke on site in these shops (no booze) and, if it proves to be a positive experiment, we hope to see more of these roll out across the country.

CBD Update

The sale of CBD as a food additive is still prohibited in NY.  As you may recall, NYC DOH embargoed CBD pre-made or pre-mixed food and drink items on the premise that CBD is not an approved “food additive” by the United States Food and Drug Administration.  We believe that NYC DOH will begin enforcing the CBD food additive ban on or about July 1, 2019.  Businesses that continue to offer food and/or drinks with CBD previously added may risk those products being embargoed by the NYC DOH, or become subject to fines as high as $650.00 per violation.  Until New York passes comprehensive legislation regarding the legalization of marijuana and/or the use of CBD, this area of the law will remain nebulous and undefined with various state agencies attempting to enforce laws that have not caught up to the reality on the ground.

Next Seminar – How to open a Recreational Dispensary

Thank you to all those who attended our first seminar.  We were standing room only with over 150 HL clients and friends in attendance.  Our next seminar will be held on June 26th at Town Stages.  We will drill down and focus on all the things one needs to do to open and then successfully operate a recreational dispensary. Stay tuned for the invite.