A worker trims green cannabis buds — the most potent part of the...

A worker trims green cannabis buds — the most potent part of the plant — at a California facility.  Credit: MediaNews Group/East Bay Times via Getty Images

The state's decision to legalize recreational marijuana last March created quite a buzz.

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act reversed decades of prohibition. New Yorkers who are 21 or older can now consume cannabis and carry around small amounts: up to three ounces of flower (the part of the plant that’s dense with the compound called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, that produces a high), or 24 grams of concentrated cannabis (oils and other substances with THC that distill down the most desirable parts of the plant.) Adults can have up to 5 pounds of cannabis at home, the state said.

GLOSSARY

Cannabis sativa L. — A plant that can be used to make textiles, building insulation, grain, medicinal products, or to generate psychoactive effects that generate a euphoric, "high" feeling

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — A compound found in Cannabis sativa L. plants that may cause intoxication 

Cannabidiol (CBD) — A compound found in Cannabis sativa L. plants that doesn't produce a feeling of being high and has anecdotally been found to provide wellness benefits

Hemp — A variety of Cannabis sativa L. that contains no more than 0.3% THC and is recognized federally as a legal agricultural commodity

Cannabinoid (CBD) Hemp Products — Any product derived from hemp that is consumed, such as food, beverages or pills, or applied topically like lotions

Marijuana — A variety of Cannabis sativa L. that contains a greater concentration of THC, and although permitted in several states, is classified as a controlled substance under federal law

Cannabis — The term the state uses to refer to marijuana or other products with more than 0.3% THC

Flower — The part of cannabis plants that contains THC and is smoked or otherwise consumed to produce a high

Edibles — Candy, baked goods, sodas and other food or beverages infused with cannabis, which, once consumed, may take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to fully kick in 

Tincture — A cannabis extract that is usually alcohol-based and used by administering a few drops under the tongue or in food or drinks

Cannabis vapes — Devices that typically heat flower or a cannabis concentrate to just below the point of combustion, which avoids burning the substance, but turns key compounds into vapor that may be inhaled

Cannabis concentrates — Products that distill down the most desirable parts of the plant, including tinctures or extracts made with other solvents like butane or carbon dioxide, as well as those engineered with heat, pressure and other physical processes; concentrates can be consumed in multiple ways

Sources: The New York State Office of Cannabis Management, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and WM Technology, a technology and infrastructure provider to the cannabis industry. 

Selling pot will remain illegal until the state issues regulations and licenses for business involved in every stage of the industry — from planting seeds to serving spliffs at cannabis lounges.

As the state drafts rules, Long Islanders are looking for clues about how the industry will take shape. Newsday turned to policymakers, academics and other cannabis experts for answers to common questions.

Here's what they see emerging in the smoke signals:

When will I be able to buy cannabis?

Legal sales are unlikely before 2023, according to Daniel Johnston, general counsel for Gotham Growth Corp., a Hauppauge company that intends to process cannabis.

The state department charged with overseeing recreational marijuana, the Office of Cannabis Management, plans to finish releasing all proposed regulations by May, executive director Christopher Alexander said during a forum earlier this month.

The state will spend five or six months reviewing public comments and, potentially, adjusting the final regulations.

The Office of Cannabis Management will likely begin accepting applications for cultivation, retail and other licenses near the end of 2022, Alexander said.

"That doesn’t mean that the doors are going to be wide-open," said Johnston. "They don’t anticipate this system being operational until 2023."

In a bid to jump-start the industry, the state announced earlier this week that farmers who are licensed to produce hemp — a Cannabis sativa L. plant variety that contains limited amounts of THC — will be eligible for "conditional" licenses to cultivate, process and distribute cannabis during the 2022 grow season.

In Southampton, the Shinnecock Indian Nation has written regulations that are expected to be voted on this spring, tribal leaders said.

How widely available will pot be on the Island?

Hemp — which contains limited amounts of THC — is readied for sale...

Hemp — which contains limited amounts of THC — is readied for sale at a Binghamton facility; the state recently announced that farmers who are licensed to produce hemp will be eligible for "conditional" licenses to cultivate, process and distribute cannabis this year. Credit: AFP via Getty Images/ANGELA WEISS

Many Long Islanders may need to travel if they want cannabis, or pay a delivery service.

The state will award all types of licenses. But under the 2021 law, towns and villages can decide to block all retail and consumption venues from opening within their boundaries.

Most Long Island localities have decided to prohibit the pot businesses within their purview, according to an opt-out tracker by The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public policy research arm of the State University of New York.

Localities can’t prevent people from consuming cannabis in a private setting — or delivery services from setting up shop, Johnston said.

In other states that have established recreational markets, deliveries account for more than 10% of recreational sales, according to Micah Tapman, CEO of BDSA, a cannabis analytics firm based in Colorado.

"If they don’t have a retail location, they might have a much higher percentage because people are like, ‘Nope, I’m happy to pay the $10 delivery fee rather than drive over to Queens,' " Tapman said.

Where will recreational marijuana be sold near me?

Gorilla Pure Kush is one of many varieties of marijuana flower for...

Gorilla Pure Kush is one of many varieties of marijuana flower for sale at the Santa Ysabel Smoke Shop and Dispensary in California. Credit: MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Four of the 10 towns in Suffolk County have chosen to participate — Babylon, Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southampton, but many villages within their borders have opted out, according to the Rockefeller Institute.

Towns and villages can reverse course and welcome these businesses at any time, according to Johnston.

How is the state handling licenses for people who were penalized for using or selling cannabis?

In issuing licenses, the state will prioritize people who have been convicted of cannabis-related offenses, their families and others from communities that were disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of marijuana. Other groups that will be granted preference include: minority- and women-owned businesses, distressed farmers and veterans who were disabled during their service.

The state aims to issue half of all licenses to these so-called social and economic equity populations. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act calls for a comprehensive plan to support equity applicants, including mentoring and an incubator program. They may not sell their license, without state approval, for three years.

How will the state help them compete against more established companies?

To prevent social and economic equity applicants from being undercut by better-financed businesses, the state law generally restricts cannabis businesses to one type of license and prohibits nearly all vertical integration.

A microbusiness license will allow smaller firms to cultivate, process, distribute and sell a limited amount of cannabis. And the medical marijuana firms that get access to several stages of the recreational business will pay fees that finance social and economic equity efforts.

"There's a value to their participation, as folks who’ve been in the space, and folks who’ve built these businesses," Alexander said. "But there is an additional value of them supporting equity businesses."

Gov. Kathy Hochul has proposed a $200 million public-private fund to assist social and economic equity entrepreneurs. Legislators may approve this assistance as part of budget negotiations. Additional support is on the way, Alexander said.

"We're trying to make sure we have support across the license types," he said. "This is our first step."

New York will not cap the number of licenses it issues, Alexander said during the February forum.

What will pot cost? Will this impact the price of medical marijuana?

Edible cannabis can come in the form of food or...

Edible cannabis can come in the form of food or drink, and it may take up to two hours for a user to feel the full effect.  Credit: MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Pot will likely cost more than it does on the illicit market once the substance is taxed and handled by businesses with overhead.

But just how much more will depend on the number of recreational businesses that launch in New York, Tapman said.

A limited supply of flower in the early days of Massachusetts' recreational market pushed wholesale prices up to $3,000 to $5,000 a pound, Tapman said. That's now coming down. In more mature markets like Oregon, a pound may go for as little as $400, he said.

A premium will likely be levied on products that require manufacturing, including bottled beverages and food items — often called edibles, said Tapman.

Pressure from recreational retailers will likely drive down prices for medical marijuana, multiple experts said.

"[Medical marijuana prices] are astronomical and without much good reason, other than that they don't have competition," Johnston said.

Will this make medical marijuana obsolete?

Tinctures are liquids that may contain cannabis extract and be used under...

Tinctures are liquids that may contain cannabis extract and be used under the tongue or in food or drinks. Credit: AP/Michael Hill

The medical marijuana market coexists with its recreational counterpart in other states, although the sector rarely grows and sometime shrinks once the substance becomes legalized, Tapman said.

Initially, recreational and medical marijuana will face the same scrutiny because both sectors will be relying on a limited number of state-sanctioned labs, but in time, medical cannabis may be subject to more oversight, Johnston said.

Consumers may still seek out medical dispensaries because they offer specialized products, may be able to sell larger quantities of cannabis and will charge lower taxes, Tapman said.

But many people won't feel those benefits are worth the trouble of getting a medical marijuana card or registering as a patient with the government, according to Tapman.

"Most shoppers will shift over," he said.

What taxes will be imposed on cannabis?

Taxes will be levied at the distributor level based on the product type: edibles will be taxed at $0.03 per milligram of THC; concentrates like oil will be taxed at $0.008 per milligram of THC; and flower will be taxed at $0.005 per milligram of THC.

Consumers will then pay a 13% tax, with 9% going to the state and 4% to local governments with retail and consumption sites.

Five years into recreational sales, the state estimates it will collect $339 million in tax revenue, according to the governor's executive budget briefing book.

The state will put this money into a fund that helps cover the cost of overseeing the industry. Any remaining revenue will be used for education, drug treatment and grants to assist communities that were disproportionately policed during prohibition.

How will this impact the economy?

On Long Island, the recreational market is expected to reach about $374 million in sales during its fifth year, according to an analysis from the Long Island Association, a regional business organization.

This could generate more than 7,300 jobs and $878 million in annual economic output on the Island, the analysis said.

In its fifth year, pot sales across the state are estimated to reach $2.6 billion, which would support more than 50,800 jobs and $6.1 billion in total economic output, according to a report from James A. Parrott, director of economic and fiscal policies the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School, and Michele Mattingly, a consultant in labor market economics.

The industry's employment numbers will likely eclipse craft brewing's, but trail the wine sector's, according to The Rockefeller Institute's estimates.

The bulk of cultivation and manufacturing facilities are expected to head upstate, where medical cannabis firms have had an easier time finding space for large warehouses and less expensive water and energy rates, the Rockefeller Institute said. Growing marijuana outside year-round would be challenging in the New York climate, according to Heather Trela, director of operations and a fellow at the Rockefeller Institute.

Can I grow my own pot?

Yes, but it may be a bit soon to start stocking up on supplies.

The state doesn't need to authorize at-home cultivation for recreational consumers until 18 months after the first retail sale, according to The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.

Each adult will be permitted to grow up to six plants at home: three immature plants, and three that have begun to flower and are therefore considered mature, Johnston said. A household can't have more than a dozen plants total, regardless of how many adults live together, according to the state.

The Office of Cannabis Management is still working out how consumers will be able to purchase seeds, spokesman Freeman Klopott said.

With cannabis being illegal at the federal level, what should I be mindful of?

Traveling across state lines with marijuana is not allowed. Neither is sending or receiving seeds, plants or other cannabis products through the mail, according to Trela.

People who work in fields with federal licenses, such as truck drivers, or live in public housing or other federally subsidized homes could face consequences for consuming cannabis, she added.

How can I keep track of the state's progress?

To sign up for Office of Cannabis Management updates, visit on.ny.gov/3M3mUmu.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that some villages and hamlets plan to allow retail and consumption businesses.

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