Regulators with New York’s Cannabis Control Board issued proposed regulations to govern the home cultivation of medical marijuana last week, following through on a provision of the state’s comprehensive cannabis reform legislation passed earlier this year. The new rules approved on October 21, which are now subject to a 60-day public comment period, would allow registered marijuana patients and caregivers to grow up to six cannabis plants at home.
“With today’s vote, we are advancing these measures for the home cultivation of medical cannabis for the public’s input as we continue to expand the program and give more New Yorkers access to this medicine and the relief it provides,” Cannabis Control Board chair Tremaine Wright said in a statement from the agency.
Approving home cultivation of medical marijuana is the first major step by the Cannabis Control Board to implement the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), which was passed by New York lawmakers and signed into law by former Governor Andrew Cuomo in March. The legislation included provisions for the home growing of cannabis by medical marijuana patients, but only after rules were drafted by the board.
Cuomo, however, failed to appoint members to the newly created Cannabis Control Board as mandated by the legislation over reported disagreements with New York state lawmakers over leadership of the panel. Following Cuomo’s resignation in August, incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul announced her nominations to the board in September, naming former Brooklyn Assemblywoman Wright as board chair and former Drug Policy Alliance staff member Chris Alexander as executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management. The nominations were confirmed by lawmakers on September 1, but the delay led the board to miss a deadline to issue home cultivation rules within four months of pass of the MRTA.
“Thanks to the quick action by Governor Hochul and the Legislature in appointing the Board and agency leadership, we are moving full-steam ahead and look forward to continuing to expand the medical program and building a new industry that will operate safely and deliver opportunity to the communities most harmed by the war on drugs,” Wright added.
Under the newly proposed medical marijuana home cultivation regulations, registered patients and caregivers working on a patient’s behalf would be permitted to grow up to three immature and three mature cannabis plants at home. The rules set a cap of up to six mature and six immature plants within or on the grounds of any private residence. Patients are limited to one caregiver growing for their needs. Caregivers with more than one patient are allowed to grow one additional plant for every patient they have above the first six.
The proposed regulations also contain several provisions designed to protect the health and safety of patients and communities. Plants and cannabis products must be kept in a secure location that incorporates reasonable measures including locks and security devices to ensure that cannabis is not accessible to persons less than 21 years old. Plants must be cultivated out of public view and growers must take reasonable steps to mitigate undesirable odors.
Additionally, processing cannabis at home with any liquid or gas, other than alcohol, that has a flashpoint below 100 degrees Fahrenheit is not permitted. The regulations also stipulate that all forms of cannabis including seeds, immature and mature plants, and marijuana flower can not be sold or bartered to another person by anyone except a licensed entity.
“Home cultivation will give medical patients and their caregivers another way to access needed medication,” said Assembly Health Committee chair and original medical marijuana bill sponsor Richard Gottfried. “This follows the important recent addition of whole flower to the medical program, expansion of eligible practitioners, and removal of patient registration fees. I commend Governor Hochul and the Cannabis Control Board for another step towards a progressive, accessible medical cannabis program.”
At the October 21 meeting of the Cannabis Control Board, Alexander updated on the status of the efforts to expunge the records of past marijuana offenses, a justice reform provision of the MRTA adopted to help address the disparate enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws. So far, approximately 198,000 records were expunged in a first round of record-clearing and another 203,000 cannabis-related charges are being suppressed from criminal background checks while in the expungement process.
“The MRTA reformed New York’s criminal justice system and strives to end decades of disproportionate enforcement of New York’s marijuana laws,” Alexander said. “A key component of these reforms is the expungement of past criminal convictions for individuals with previous convictions for activities that are no longer criminalized. When completed the actions of the 2019 and 2021 laws will have expunged the records of over 400,000 New Yorkers – a staggering reminder the impact that cannabis prohibition had on so many lives.”