Experts talk about small businesses and medical marijuana companies entering the recreational market


ALBANY, NY (NEWS10) – New York’s landmark marijuana legislation attempts to make the most of the state’s existing relationships with medical marijuana companies, while also shifting towards fairness.

“We really think New York State has done an incredible job in creating an adult-oriented program that is equal to all groups involved,” said Albe Zakes, vice president of communications for Vireo Health.

Vireo Health is one of ten medical marijuana companies already operating in New York State. Zakes said Vireo was ready to explore expanding recreation by looking to purchase more land next to its existing Fulton County processing plant.

“We’re also going to open up to three adult clinics, so it’s a great expectation we have. This all remains to be seen, ”he said in a Zoom interview with NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

Anyone looking to get into the recreational industry will have to wait months, if not years, for New York to issue regulations. Already, established medical marijuana companies are ahead of the curve with the money and the fact that their existing operations will not be disrupted by the new law.

“This is full vertical integration – growing, processing and retailing these products. This will continue in the new program, but all new commercial licenses will be either for cultivation or for retail, not both, ”says Zakes.

However, the law also affects communities hardest hit by the war on marijuana. At least 50 percent of all licenses should go to minority-owned businesses, women, disabled veterans or farmers in distress. However, Kaelan Castetter, CEO of Empire Standard and director of policy analysis for Castetter Cannabis Group, says the new Cannabis Management Board and Cannabis Control Board will have a lot of work to do to ensure that small businesses can compete.

“It takes a certain amount of haste to put an application process in place and then make sure that the application fees are not excessively high, that there are grants and loans available, that there is a business assistance available. The state can therefore do a lot to level the playing field, ”says Castetter.

“If you do that, then I think these small businesses can compete very well. If you give too much benefit to medical marijuana companies through bureaucracy and regulation, then yes, they are going to use their money and eventually stifle small business innovation, ”he continues.

Castetter is also very concerned about the new tax structure enshrined in New York law. He says it will be the only one in the country to tax based on how much THC is in a product and what the end product will be.

“You are creating a new class of criminals and this is non-compliance. Creating a complicated tax structure will make this new system very difficult to understand and it will be easier for people to get it wrong and put themselves in a situation of non-compliance, ”says Castetter. “The easiest solution is to follow what other states have done and that is to tax by the percentage of sales.”

He says time will tell if New York City is committed to preventing small business innovation from being stifled.

“We’ve seen this happen in other states, and we don’t want this. I don’t even necessarily think all medical companies want it, do I? We want a thriving industry to meet demand from New York, which will be one of the largest cannabis markets in the world, ”Castetter said.

“We believe everyone should have their place at the table,” Zakes says. “We’re looking to California and Colorado, states that have been recreational for a while, and where there are these thriving cannabis industry boutiques, mum and pop stores, and hope New York can do the same. “


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