As New York Relaxes Cannabis Rules, Industry Wants In

Eager to get in on what’s expected to be a booming industry, cannabis companies and investors are beginning to flock to New York state. It’s a trend that could pick up even more steam after lawmakers in Albany gathered Monday to announce a renewed push to legalize adult-use cannabis.

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State Sen. Liz Krueger (D-New York) and Rep. Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo), along with advocates organized by the Drug Policy Alliance, held a press conference about the reintroduction of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA). The legislation, S.3040/A.3506, would tax and regulate cannabis in a fashion similar to alcohol.

The coalition also announced the launch of a campaign, Start SMART NY, dedicated to ending prohibition in the state.

“Marijuana prohibition is a failed and outdated policy that has done tremendous damage to too many of our communities,” Krueger said in a statement about the bill. “Allowing adult personal use, with appropriate regulation and taxation, will end the heavily racialized enforcement that disproportionately impacts African American and Latino New Yorkers, locking them out of jobs, housing, and education, and feeding the prison pipeline.”

The state, too, would see benefits. Tax revenues are projected to be a huge supplement for the outsized state, home to a population of 20 million—roughly two-thirds that of Canada.

Key sponsors of the bill include Sens. Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx), Jesse Hamilton (IDC-Brooklyn), Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), and Reps. Walter Mosley (D-Brooklyn) and Michael Blake (D-Bronx).

Industry Streams In

In an effort to get an early slice of the cannabis pie, companies and investors are beginning to flock to the Empire State. Most recently, cannabis finance and investment firm iAnthus Capital Holdings, which owns, operates, and partners with licensed cannabis operators throughout the country, announced it will expand into New York.

The company announced Monday morning that it has signed a letter of intent to wholly acquire Valley Agriceuticals which has received conditional approval from the state Department of Health to receive one of just 10 medical marijuana licenses to be issued by the state.

“With a population of nearly 20 million residents, a rapidly growing patient base, and only ten medical cannabis licenses, New York is an ideal market for iAnthus to enter,” company President Randy Maslow said in a statement. “The state’s move to eliminate some of the [medical marijuana] Program’s initial limitations has created an incredibly potent opportunity for accelerating patient growth. Coupled with our presence in Massachusetts, the proposed acquisition in New York sets the stage for iAnthus to be a key player in two of the most densely populated markets in the northeastern United States.”

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Valley Ag intends to produce medical-grade cannabis in oil, pill, inhaler pen, and other state-approved forms. It will also sell those products through its dispensaries.

The proposed acquisition would also include Valley Ag’s cultivation campus, which consists of approximately 136 acres of real estate zoned for cannabis cultivation, along with a 6,500-square-foot, custom-built cultivation and processing facility.

“The addition of chronic pain to New York’s list of medical cannabis indications, as well as existing qualifying conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, has made the medicine available to a very large group of patients in New York,” said Stephen Ashekian, CEO of Valley Ag. “As we educate more doctors and patients on the list of ailments that cannabis may beneficially treat, we expect the number of Program enrollees to grow at an even faster rate.”

Officers at both companies likened the New York market today to that of Canada just a year ago.

“Having watched the development of the Canadian cannabis market up close, we are seeing striking similarities between where New York is today and where Canada was a year ago, with comparable patient numbers and a limited number of competitors,” said Julius Kalcevich, CFO of iAnthus.

The big difference, said Philip Green, Valley Ag’s chief financial officer, is that the New York market seems to be growing more rapidly.

“New York is experiencing significantly faster patient growth,” he said, “indicating that New York State could potentially be one of the largest medical marijuana markets in the U.S.”

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