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State

Final state cannabis rules expected by early spring

Two marijuana plants

If pot is legal in New York State, why don't we see stores everywhere selling cannabis sativa?

There are people everywhere selling the plant, but those aren't legal sales.

The difficulty is that the state Office of Cannabis Management is still working through the legal process. Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright told a Western New York webinar Thursday evening that the final rules should be starting their way through the next stage in late winter or early spring.

Wright said the law designates those who have preference in all stages of the process.

"Those who have been impacted by the disproportionate policing that occurred during the Prohibition of cannabis. It's distressed farmers. It is MWBEs and it is service-disabled veteran-owned businesses," she said.

During the webinar, she took more than two dozen questions trying to explain how it's all going to work.

The control board has eased the rules on medical pot which many thought were much tougher than they needed to be. The law legalizing pot also provides for expunging records of people who were caught and punished for pot offenses and hundreds of thousands of people will no longer have criminal records when it's all over.

Wright also talked about the ability of local governments to block pot stores in their communities.

"Towns and villages control over whether or not they can place retail dispensaries and on-site consumption lounges," she said. "The deadline for communities to opt out of sales was Dec. 31, 2021. However, those communities that opted out are not locked out of the opportunities industry offers. They can always opt in."

Asked about Indian pot, Wright said Albany doesn't control what Native Americans grow on their own land.

"We do not have jurisdiction over tribal lands. The native lands, they are operated under Native American law and therefore they are able to create their own cannabis laws," Wright said. "Many of them are doing so as we speak, as well as developing the cannabis industry on those lands."

The Seneca Nation has said it's planning to go into the pot business and has a Cannabis Department aimed at hemp, which is a variant. Just Thursday, the Nation barred three individuals identified as non-Senecas from Seneca Territory for involvement in drug trafficking.