2021 has been a big year for cannabis, and it’s not even halfway done! This spring, New Mexico and New York both announced the passage of adult-use cannabis bills. Significantly, both these efforts came through state legislatures, a sign that lawmakers are finally getting on the side of massive public acceptance of cannabis.
But the question of when NY and NM cannabis sales actually begin is a stickier one (hint: don’t start celebrating just yet). What do the new cannabis bills actually mean in terms of timing? Here’s what you should know.
NM Cannabis Sales: A Fast-Track to Full Legalization
In some regards, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s April 12 signing of HB 2—the adult-use bill—into law was no surprise. The Land of Enchantment had been on analysts’ shortlists as one of the next fully-legal states for some time. But when cannabis legislation stalled during the state Legislature’s regular session, Governor Grisham forced the issue by calling for a special two-day session to hammer out wrinkles and push the bill over the line.
So, the question on everyone’s lips now is: When do adult-use sales begin?
At first, some confusing guidance from the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department suggested the answer was almost immediately. But while the state’s Cannabis Regulation Act—which goes into effect on June 29—will allow adults to possess up to two ounces of cannabis flower, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to buy it.
After some early and confusing statements, Department Superintendent Linda Trujillo affirmed that, for the moment, the rolling 90-day limit of 8 ounces for medical cannabis patients will remain in effect until state-regulated commercial sales can start. In other words, non-medical cannabis fans can possess cannabis, they just can’t buy it.
So…when do adult-use cannabis sales begin? Here’s the current timeline:
- June 29, 2021: The Cannabis Regulation Act allows possession of up to two ounces flower
- By September 1, 2021: Create the Cannabis Regulatory Advisory Committee; begin processing license applications for cannabis producers
- By January 1, 2022: State begins licensing cannabis training and education permits, cannabis server permits, and all other retail license types
- By April 1, 2022: NM cannabis sales begin
NY Cannabis Sales: An Update
On March 31, 2021, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation immediately legalizing cannabis for recreational use. But just as in New Mexico, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to buy adult-use cannabis anytime soon. Just as in NM, certain parts of the bill go into effect immediately while others will take longer to implement.
As for consuming cannabis, you can now do so wherever it’s legal to consume tobacco. That means no smoking in cars, in the workplace, or near schools. And some municipalities may well impose their own, stricter regulations on consumption.
Based on the timelines of other states that have legalized cannabis, industry analysts expect New York’s adult-use cannabis sales to begin sometime around mid-to-late 2022. New Yorkers will also be able to have cannabis delivered to their homes once those sales go live. Furthermore, it’s believed that on-site cannabis consumption lounges will be open to New Yorkers around the same time.
What’s the big holdup? While the bill the Governor signed spells out the general outlines of legalization, it leaves most of the details to be decided later by the Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board. Over the coming months, these regulatory bodies will be tasked with figuring out the details of licensing, tracking, taxes, and more.
Even after these details are established, it will still take some time for licenses to be distributed and stores to open. Additionally, experts have warned that it could take several years for cultivators and distributors to set up a state-wide network that can actually meet the projected demand. Which—no pun intended—is expected to be quite high.