Upon exhaling a deep drag from a joint of Blueberry Cookies grown by City Farmers BCN the smoke from my hit travels upward into the rafters of a 16th century modernist palace in the heart of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. As the smoke rises, I contemplate the significance of the moment and celebrate the freedom of enjoying weed in a country where cannabis still exists within a gray area, decriminalized for personal use and cultivation, but illegal for commercial sales. I’m in Barcelona, Spain for an international gathering focused on cannabis genetics. More specifically, I’m within the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum at a party celebrating the collaborative efforts that bridged a domestic-international divide to unite two storied cannabis seed companies, Sensi Seeds and Humboldt Seed Company. Within their collaboration lies the dawning of a new chapter in the history of marijuanaThis post contains affiliate links!, one which continues the tradition of legendary fusions of Californian and European genetics that started in the 1970s when the hybridization of cannabis began.
The collaborative project is called Breeding Grounds and resulted in the release of four new feminized seeds: The Bird (OG Kush x Humboldt Dream x Larry Bird), Auto Pineapple Kush Cake (Pineapple Muffin autoflower x Banana Kush Cake autoflower), Auto Amnesia Jelly (Mint Jelly autoflower x Amnesia autoflower XXL), and one that lies within the highly popular and heavily lauded Z terp family, Purple Berry Muffinz (Purple Bud x Blueberry Muffin x Zkittlez). But arguably more significant than the lineage of the new cannabis cultivars is the symbolism of what they represent. Sensi Seeds, which inherited the genetics of the first cannabis seed bank—Nevil Schoenmakers’s The Seed Bank of Holland—brought the world classic cultivars such as the sativa-dominant Jack Herer and has been in the business of selling cannabis seeds from its home base in Holland since the 1980s. Humboldt Seed Company, founded in California’s Emerald Triangle in 2001, has built a reputation as a trusted breeder via enormous phenohunts and award-winning cannabis such as its signature strain Blueberry Muffin. The fusion of the two companies in 2023 harkens back to the beginnings of cannabis breeding in the 1970s, when people like Sam the Skunkman and Ed Rosenthal became the catalysts for uniting European and Californian cannabis genetics, an action that created the first cannabis hybrids.
“The first time I heard about The Seed Bank, which is the precursor to what is now Sensi Seeds… my uncle had a shed where he would keep all the gardening stuff and in that shed he would stash High Times magazines and I remember sneaking into his shed—because we would sometimes you know, borrow some weed from our uncle—and we’re looking at his High Times and in the back of High Times we saw an advertisement for The Seed Bank,” explains Benjamin Lind, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Humboldt Seed Company. “And it just kind of clicked like, ‘Whoa, you can actually order seeds.’”
From a young age, Lind was observing his family members making their own cannabis crosses and learning about the importance of seeds to ensure the next year’s harvest. Sensi Seeds, he says over an early morning eating lychee fruit acquired from one of Barcelona’s famed food markets, was the first cannabis seed company that ever came into his vision. And, once he met the people behind the company and toured their facility decades later, he learned that the breeding work they had been doing aligned with his own.
“A lot of our processes are very similar,” he says. “All breeders come at breeding cannabis differently and very few have similar beliefs or similar philosophies, but we mesh really well.”
This meshing of two similar minds in the cannabis breeding world was more than a coincidence, it’s the result of years of effort put in by none other than cannabis cultivation expert Ed Rosenthal, who tells me he’s done writing books and is now more interested in acquisitions and mergers. Rosenthal’s relationship with Sensi Seeds goes back years. A mutual friend who had a cannabis club and magazine introduced Rosenthal to Ben Dronkers, the founder of Sensi Seeds, back in the 1980s. Once introduced, the two began to collaborate with each other on a museum in Amsterdam dedicated to the history of the cannabis plant which first opened in 1987.
“At the same time Nevil [Schoenmakers] was indicted so he sold his business, The Seed Bank, to [Sensi Seeds] and he took off for the wilds of Australia and he was never brought to the U.S.,” Rosenthal explains. “We stayed close and then [Dronkers] hired me off and on at different times to do things and then also put in, I think, $50,000 to $100,000 into my defense.”
The defense Rosenthal is referring to was a federal trial that began in the early 2000s when he was found guilty of three felonies related to the cultivation and sale of marijuanaThis post contains affiliate links!. After the trial, the jurors—who had not been provided with the crucial information that Rosenthal had been deputized by the city of Oakland, California to grow medical marijuanaThis post contains affiliate links!—denounced their verdict and in 2003 Rosenthal was ultimately sentenced to a single day in prison, time served.
Rosenthal calls Sensi Seeds, which is now run by Dronkers’s son Ravi Dronkers, a “legacy family,” and says when he saw them interacting with Humboldt Seed Company he realized the “cultures weren’t that different.”
“I knew this was the one to go and I just did everything so that it didn’t get fucked up,” he says. “I’m really excited about this. This is going to be very big.”
The announcement for the collaboration came in mid-March at the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum’s second iteration in Barcelona and included flutes of cava alongside a bowl filled with the Spanish-grown Blueberry Cookies so guests could roll their own joints. Guests in attendance included Jack Herer’s son, Dan Herer, who was spotted taking a photograph of a framed picture of his father on display within one of the rooms devoted to hemp. In a country that resides within the legal gray market for cannabis, smoking and enjoying flowers and concentrates takes place within private social clubs and spaces that are cannabis-friendly. This clearly includes the cannabis-themed museum during a private event, but also includes restaurants which will pull down their rollup doors to offer discretion for diners to smoke weed at the table while the waitstaff also lights up.
Over a candid evening conversation after one of those smoky Barcelona dinners, Rosenthal gets in a discussion with Nathaniel Pennington, co-founder and CEO of Humboldt Seed Company, about cannabis breeding. The basics of cannabis breeding involve creating new expressions of the botanical by crossing, or pollinating, the female flower with pollen from a male plant. An F1, or first generation, occurs when breeders cross two landraces—cultivars that are native to specific regions and have not been bred—or when breeders cross two inbred lines. The final hybridized result that’s released by reputable seed companies comes after at least four generations of inbreeding. The reason that the lines are inbred, or bred from plants that share similar genetics, is to stabilize the seeds ensuring that, once the seeds are grown into plants, they retain similar physical characteristics. Cannabis plants have a complex set of DNA and, like two sisters from the same family, when two cultivars are brought together the results will not be genetically identical, but rather, similar but different expressions known as phenotypes. The art of creating cannabis seeds involves the painstaking work of getting to a point where the expression of all the seeds will be the same, a process that is known as stabilizing the genetics.
“With breeding it’s not true science until it’s repeatable,” Pennington explains. “[True breeding doesn’t occur] until you can perform the same experiment, which I would say is the same seed population times the same seed population and find the same phenotypic outcome. And if you can’t reproduce that experiment then you haven’t really accomplished anything except for you’ve made a clone line which can be forever propagated as a clone, but that’s a bit of a handicap if you ask me.”
In a world filled with companies making dubious claims about the stability of their seed lines some companies, like Sensi Seeds and Humboldt Seed Company, stick to the science. In doing so, these seed banks bless humanity with reliable cultivars that cross oceans and territorial boundaries to contribute to the diverse genetic expression of the world’s most favored flower.
“Both of our families have worked for generations to preserve the very best lines and bring them to the modern market,” Lind said through a press release about the Breeding Grounds project. “We both evolved on different continents, with different selective pressures. Even though we live a world apart we have a very similar philosophy based on love and respect for the plant. It was natural we would cross-pollinate the best from Amsterdam with the best of Northern California.”
Maryland Adult-Use Cannabis Plan Advances
Maryland is inching closer to a plan to set up its adult-use cannabisThis post contains affiliate links! market, after a few amendments were made to iron out potential issues.
Voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot referendum last year, legalizing possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis for adults, which will become legal July 1. But the state has yet to implement final rules regarding how the market will be regulated.
On Monday, Maryland’s Senate Finance Committee approved their chamber’s version of Senate Bill 516, a bill to establish the state’s adult-use market, with several amendments. The planned administrative body, for instance, will no longer be combined with the state’s alcohol and tobacco regulatory body.
The committee voted to create an independent Maryland CannabisThis post contains affiliate links! Administration to regulate the adult-use industry. It would operate separately from the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. Both the original Senate and House bills proposed including the Cannabis Commission as a division within the already existing Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, but that plan fell through.
Lawmakers also tweaked the tax plan. Instead of implementing a graduated sales tax, starting at 6% and eventually growing to 10% by 2028, growing 1% each year incrementally, the state would implement a flat 9% sales tax once cannabisThis post contains affiliate links! becomes legal for adults on July 1.
The Baltimore Sun reports that the bill is moving towards its final steps before it can be sent to the governor.
Lawmakers need to approve the bill before the state’s annual 90-day session ends on April 10. “We need to get something along to the governor,” Senate Finance Committee Chair Melony Griffith said at the committee meeting.
The House version of the bill, House Bill 556, advanced earlier this month, which now awaits a full vote by the Senate.
DCist reports that both the House and Senate versions aim to address the problems associated with the rollout of the state’s medical cannabis industry. Maryland legalized medical cannabis in 2014, but it was hammered with a series of setbacks. When the industry was finally operational, not a single Black-owned business was included in the first round of licenses, even though Black residents make up nearly one-third of the state’s population.
Maryland’s March to Adult Use Cannabis
Voters approved Question 4, or the MarijuanaThis post contains affiliate links! Legalization Amendment, on Nov. 8, 2022. The passage of this initiative amends the Maryland Constitution with Article XX which allows cannabis possession and consumption for adults 21 and older, starting on or after July 1, 2023. The amendment also instructed the Maryland General Assembly to “provide for the use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabisThis post contains affiliate links! within the state.”
Two companion pieces of legislation to award licenses, regulate the sale of cannabis, and set tax rates were filed Feb. 3 in both Maryland’s House and Senate. Maryland Delegates Vanessa Atterbeary (D-District 13) and C. T. Wilson (D-District 28) sponsored the House bill and Sens. Brian Feldman (D-District 15) and Antonio Hayes (D-District 40) sponsored the Senate version.
An upcoming round of new licenses for growers, processors and distributors would roll out on Jan. 1, 2024 for social equity applicants, defined as those who have lived in or attended school in an area disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. Another round of licenses would roll out after May 1, 2024.
The plan would allow for licenses for up to 300 dispensaries, 100 processors, and 75 growers. Smaller micro operations would be afforded additional licenses for 200 dispensaries, 100 processors, and 100 growers.
Now, the Senate’s version of the bill will move to the Budget and Taxation Committee, before reaching the full Senate for a vote.
Renowned Cannabis Breeder Sues Company Over Termination
One of the most influential marijuanaThis post contains affiliate links! breeders in the world has filed a lawsuit against a cannabisThis post contains affiliate links! company, alleging that he lost his job there due to the fact that he suffers from Parkinson’s disease and required certain accommodations.
Christopher Lynch filed the suit against Node Labs Inc. in a San Francisco court on Monday.
The complaint details Lynch’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s in 2014, and his dealings with Node Labs.
In 2017, Lynch “began work on the genetic development and breeding of Cannabis plants including, but not limited to ‘C. Sativa’ varieties,” according to the lawsuit. He ultimately formed Compound IP LLC, and trademarked the name, “Compound Genetics,” before entering into an agreement with Node Labs in 2019 to sell Compound IP LLC assets.
But by 2020, the relationship between Lynch and the company was deteriorating. According to the complaint, the defendants “were actively frustrating the purpose of the original Contract by refusing to provide [Lynch] with an accounting of the sales upon which [his] compensation was based.”
“Further, [Node Labs] had failed to pay [Lynch] his sales bonus. Defendants continued to actively frustrate the purpose and intent of the original Contract throughout the remainder of his employment and beyond,” the complaint says.
“Throughout Plaintiff’s employment Defendants used Plaintiff’s standing in the genetic industry to bolster the NODE and COMPOUND brand. Although Plaintiff was not required by his employment agreement to do so, Defendants demanded that Plaintiff make appearances, participate in interviews, and market the brand using his name and likeness,” the complaint continues.
In the lawsuit, Lynch alleges that, in May 2021, Node Labs CEO Lauren Avenius “attempted to minimize [Lynch’s] importance and future role with the company by telling a key investor that Plaintiff had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.”
After months of alleged disagreements between the two sides, the complaint says that Lynch was fired in December a week after filing “a complaint against [Node Labs] with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.”
“At the time, [Lynch] was on medical leave and [Node Labs] had locked [him] out of the company email system,” according to the complaint.
Lynch, who has bred some of the most popular cannabisThis post contains affiliate links! strains available and has teamed up with brands and celebrities, was profiled last week by Forbes.
“He’s the man behind some of the best-known strains on the market today including Pink Certz, Apples & Bananas, Khalifa Mints, Blueberry Banana, Fish Scale, Eye Candy, and more. Alchemizing new flavors using rare, hard-to-find genetics is his bread-and-buttter. Lynch’s strain Pink Certz won 2022 Strain of the Year from High Times. The year prior, High Times deemed Lynch one of the 100 most influential people in cannabis. Pink Certz also won First Place at the 2022 Transbay Challenge III.” Forbes said.
“His success has been hard-fought. Lynch was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson’s in 2014 after he had brain surgery to remove a cerebellum cyst located inside the back of his head.”
“Life is precious, be grateful for what you have,” Lynch told Forbes. “Your life can change overnight. Don’t wait to pursue your dreams and goals.”
The profile details how Lynch got into cannabisThis post contains affiliate links! after he “dropped out of high school his sophomore year and moved to Amsterdam in 2004 and Rotterdam in 2005.”
“During his time in Holland, Lynch immersed himself in the cannabisThis post contains affiliate links! culture and learned a tremendous amount. He brought that knowledge back to Portland, Oregon, where he began his career growing medical marijuanaThis post contains affiliate links!,” the story said.
Man Who Stabbed Hemp Store Clerk To Face Death Penalty
Charles Michael Haywood, 22, appeared before a judge on Monday, March 27, and will be charged with capital murder for the fatal stabbing of a woman working at a hemp store in North Carolina last year.
Margaret Bracey, who was 42, was working alone at Exotic Hemp Company when Haywood barged into the store. Security footage shows what appears to be Haywood asking her about products before pulling out a knife and demanding her to empty the register. Then he stabbed her multiple times and killed her even though she complied with his demands.
WECT reports that District Attorney Ben David says the State of North Carolina is seeking the death penalty for a man charged in the fatal stabbing of a woman who worked at a hemp store last August. WWAY reports Superior Court Judge Dawn Layton agreed and ruled in favor of the district attorney office’s proposal.
“This is especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, given the facts and circumstances of what happened to Margaret Bracey that evening. It was also in the commission of an armed robbery, and done for pecuniary gain. These are all aggravating factors, where the state is empowered to seek the death penalty. Not every first degree murder is death penalty eligible, you have to have what are called aggravating circumstances. The judge agreed that based on the facts and circumstances of this case, it should proceed forward and Charles Michael Haywood will be tried for his life,” said Pender County District Attorney Ben David.
The arrest warrant details the course of events that led to Bracey’s death.
“Haywood removed the cash from the register and then attacked Bracey with the knife, stabbing her multiple times,” a Surf City, North Carolina-based detective wrote as probable cause for a search warrant. “As a result of the knife attack by Haywood, Bracey was killed.”
“Haywood cut his hand during the attack and was seen on video bleeding from his hand,” the warrant continues.
According to the arrest warrant, Haywood took about $750 from the register and put it in his backpack. Then he swapped out clothes to disguise himself as he left.
The attacker was turned in by his own mother after she saw his face on TV.
“[Haywood’s mother] brought Haywood to the Surf City Police Department where he was interviewed and ultimately arrested for first-degree murder and armed robbery,” the court document states. “While interviewing [Haywood’s mother], she advised that Haywood had returned to her residence with his shirt wrapped around his hand. [She] stated that Haywood entered the residence and showered. [She] stated that she checked on Haywood and found that he had a laceration to his hand that required medical attention. [She] stated that Haywood put the shirt he had wrapped around his hand into a trash bag and put the trash bag into the outside trash can.”
While Haywood was held in jail, he was denied bail.
The next court date for the case has not yet been set. District Attorney Ben David says he expects the jury to be selected among residents living in Pender County, North Carolina.
“Two of my prosecutors, Jason Smith and Amy White, are both going to be actually handling the case when it comes to trial. I was present at the scene with Jason, the night it happened, and we’ve all been working closely. That’s one thing I want to stress, you know, these decisions are not made lightly, we have over 100-years, worth of prosecutors, around the table with me and the lead investigators, when we have what are called critical case reviews.”
Center for Medical Cannabis Research To Open at University of Utah
The University of Utah recently confirmed that it’s starting the early planning phases to build a Center for Medical CannabisThis post contains affiliate links! Research. House Bill 230, which was passed by the House and the Senate, was signed by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox on March 15.
According to bill sponsor Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, HB-230 will expand the state’s ability to conduct research and offer up scientific-backed information. Specifically in reference to the opening of a medical cannabisThis post contains affiliate links! research center at the University of Kentucky in September 2022, Dailey-Provost believes it’s time for Utah to do so as well. “I figured if Kentucky can do it … we can create one in Utah as well,” she said, according to The Daily Utah Chronicle.
She added that previously, Utah legislators have been listening to studies conducted from out of state, rather than conducting their own research from within. “What we hear from providers, especially physicians, nurse practitioners, PAs who can recommend [cannabis] as a medication is that they just don’t feel like they have enough information to really confidently recommend this as part of a comprehensive health care plan,” Dailey-Provost said.
The main goal of the Utah-based Center for Medical Cannabis Research is to become a hub that monitors all research being conducted in the state, as well as “identify gaps in patient accessibility, and support researchers and going out and finding grounds, doing the work, talking to other states about what work is going on.”
Eventually, Dailey-Provost also wants the state to have a National Institute of Health-approved (NIH) medical cannabis cultivation site. “There are only six in the nation that grow medical grade cannabisThis post contains affiliate links! that is eligible for study by NIH grants,” she said. “I think Utah with its robust agricultural heritage, we have an opportunity to maybe be a center for meeting those needs for research being done at the National Institutes of Health.”
The passage of HB-230 also includes $650,000 to fund the Center for Medical Cannabis Research, which comes from the Department of Health’s Qualified Patient Enterprise Fund. According to University of Utah Associate Vice President Dr. Rachel Hess, they want to ensure that they do everything they can to help usher in this new era of medical cannabis research. “Obviously, everything can’t be accomplished in one year, but the legislature has really made a longitudinal commitment, so ensuring that the science that is prepared to go…can go in the first year and then staging subsequently after that are the key steps…to ensure that we really are able to deliver on the promise of this vision,” said Hess.
More importantly, the Center for Medical Cannabis Research will open up research opportunities for other universities as well. “I think that’s going to be really important to communicate with all of the institutions across Utah about, about this work that the legislature is sponsoring and then bringing together that community to form those collaborations to move this work forward,” Hess added.
The plan for the Center for Medical Cannabis Research’s year will begin with a focus on up-and-coming research initiatives. The second year will be an opportunity for researchers to begin planning ahead. Ultimately, Hess concluded that she’s very proud of the new opportunity. “We really feel like Utah can lead in many ways in this area and are just really proud of the forward-thinking nature of creating something like this,” she said.
While medical cannabisThis post contains affiliate links! embarks on a new journey with the university research center, psilocybin is also taking center stage. Last month, a psilocybin mushroom bill was introduced in Utah, which would emulate regulations similar to the state’s medical cannabis program. It would allow psilocybin therapy to be legal for patients with qualifying conditions. “This is not for everyone, but if it’s for someone that is desperate (for help) with their anxiety, depression and PTSD—that’s pushing many, unfortunately, to suicide, I want them to have access in a way that’s safe, that we can regulate,” said Senate Majority Leader Luz Escamilla.
Ohio Law Enforcement Is Suing Afroman for Use of Security Footage Online
In September 2022, Afroman’s home residence in Ohio was raided by local law enforcement. While Afroman wasn’t home, his private security camera system recorded them searching his property as they rifled through his clothes and other belongings looking for drugs or other illegal paraphernalia. Afroman posted videos of these law enforcement officers on his social media channels, with commentary making fun of them as they searched his house. He even made two music videos using the footage entitled “Lemon Pound Cake” and “Will You Help Me Repair My Door.”
Now, seven Adams County Sheriff’s Department officers are suing him because of his use of the footage without their consent. According to the lawsuit, exposing people’s faces without consent is a misdemeanor under the Ohio Revised Code. The officers are also suing because their faces were publicly visible, which caused “emotional distress, embarrassment, ridicule, loss of reputation and humiliation.”
The plaintiffs claim that they’re entitled to Afroman’s proceeds gained from the songs, as well as music videos and live event tickets, in addition to his brand, which offers beer, cannabisThis post contains affiliate links!, T-shirts, among other things. In addition to this, they’re asking that Afroman remove all videos and photos that feature them online.
Afroman posted a response to the lawsuit on all of his social media channels. “Essentially a racist judge signed a fictitious false warrant, lying on the warrant, accusing me of kidnapping and drug trafficking,” Afroman wrote. “The warrant put the Adams county sheriff in a position to attempt to kill me. After the Adams County Sheriff. Burglarized vandalized and destroyed my property. They became thieves and stole my money. After they stole my money they became criminals. After they became criminals they lost their right of privacy.”
Afroman’s attorney, Anna Castellini, also issued a statement about their next move. “We are waiting for public records requests from Adam’s county we still have not received,” Castellini said. “We are planning to counter sue for the unlawful raid, money being stolen, and for the undeniable damage this had on my clients family, career and property.”
Law enforcement obtained a warrant to search Afroman’s home in August 2022 with probable cause that they would find drugs and drug paraphernalia. The only items that were allegedly seized were a vapeThis post contains affiliate links! pen, a few roaches, and thousands of dollars in cash. Ultimately they did not find any evidence of drugs or paraphernalia and no charges were filed.
The law enforcement officers claim they’ve become the subject of ridicule by Afroman fans, which has made it “more dangerous” for them to continue working, and have received death threats “by anonymous members of the public who have seen some of Defendant’s above-described postings.” The lawsuit claims that “Defendants’ actions were willful, wanton, malicious, and done with conscious or reckless disregard for the rights of the Plaintiffs.”
In Afroman’s most recent post on TikTok on March 24, he points out how Adams County is home to meth labs, but they chose to raid his home instead.
In December 2022, Afroman announced that he’s running for president in 2024. “My Fellow Americans, there comes a time in the course of human events when change must be affected,” Afroman wrote on Instagram. “That time is now. Americans are suffering, and the status quo is no longer acceptable. Inflation is out of control. The economy is in shambles. The housing market is staggering. Politicians are corrupt. Bad apples are allowed to remain in law enforcement, amongst our noble and brave officers.”
The self-described “CannabisThis post contains affiliate links! Commander in Chief” and “Pot Head of State” claims that he would tackle cannabisThis post contains affiliate links! reform and criminal justice reform, among other top priority issues.
New York Governor Unveils Plan To Address Illicit Pot Shops
New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday unveiled new legislation to combat the state’s persistent illicit cannabis operators. The bill, which already has the support of dozens of lawmakers in the New York Senate and State Assembly, also provides increased authority for regulators including the Office of CannabisThis post contains affiliate links! Management and the Department of Taxation and Finance to enforce regulations and close stores engaged in illegal cannabis sales.
“Over the past several weeks I have been working with the legislature on new legislation to improve New York’s regulatory structure for cannabisThis post contains affiliate links! products,” Hochul said in a statement from the governor’s office. “The continued existence of illegal dispensaries is unacceptable, and we need additional enforcement tools to protect New Yorkers from dangerous products and support our equity initiatives.”
New York Legalized Recreational Weed In 2021
New York legalized adult-use cannabis in 2021 and the first recreational marijuanaThis post contains affiliate links! dispensary opened its doors in Manhattan late last year. But so far, only four Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) retailers have opened statewide. Meanwhile, the number of unlicensed pot shops has skyrocketed, prompting operators in the nascent licensed cannabis industry and others to press state officials for action against illicit operators.
Under the proposed legislation announced by Hochul on Wednesday, New York’s tax and cannabis laws would be amended to enable the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), the Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) and local law enforcement agencies to enforce restrictions on unlicensed storefront dispensaries. The legislation does not impose new penalties for cannabisThis post contains affiliate links! possession for personal use by an individual and does not allow local law enforcement officers to perform marijuanaThis post contains affiliate links! enforcement actions against individuals.
“This legislation, for the first time, would allow OCM and DTF to crack down on unlicensed activity, protect New Yorkers, and ensure the success of new cannabis businesses in New York,” the governor’s office wrote. “The legislation would restructure current illicit cannabisThis post contains affiliate links! penalties to give DTF peace officers enforcement authority, create a manageable, credible, fair enforcement system, and would impose new penalties for retailers that evade State cannabis taxes.”
The bill clarifies and expands the OCM’s authority to seize illicit cannabis products, establishes summary procedures for the OCM and other governmental entities to shut down unlicensed businesses, and creates a framework for more effective cooperative efforts among agencies.
Violations of the law could lead to fines of $200,000 for illicit cannabis plants or products. The legislation also allows the OCM to fine businesses up to $10,000 per day for engaging in cannabis sales without a license from the state.
Elliot Choi, chief knowledge officer at the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente LLP, hailed the use of financial penalties instead of jail time to help reign in New York’s illicit cannabis market.
“Governor Hochul’s proposed legislation is very much welcomed as prior efforts to combat the illicit dispensaries haven’t appeared to have much of an impact,” Choi wrote in an email to High Times. “We support the use of fines as opposed to incarceration to avoid recriminalization and a return of anything that resembles the prior failed war on drugs.”
In addition to fines for unlicensed cannabis operators, Choi said that penalizing property owners who rent to unlicensed businesses would also be an appropriate tool for the state’s cannabis regulators and called for an increase in funding for state agencies tasked with controlling underground operators.
“Landlords should not have any incentives to rent to illegal operators and should be financially punished for doing so,” said Choi. “Finally, both the OCM and the Department of Taxation and Finance need additional resources to enforce as the OCM already has enough on their plate getting the regulations finalized and corresponding licenses issued in a timely fashion.”
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