Cannabis cultivation is legal in Albany County based on the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) of the state of New York which was passed in March 2021. This updated the 2016 law that legalized only medical cannabis. The MRTA has legalized cannabis use for adults aged 21 and older.
According to the Medical Cannabis Home Cultivation Guide and Personal Home Cultivation of Medical Cannabis Regulations of the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), effective October 5, 2022, certified patients who are part of the Medical Cannabis Program Registry, carry medical marijuana ID cards, and are aged 21 and older are permitted to possess, plant, grow, harvest, dry, and process up to a total of three immature female cannabis plants and three mature female cannabis plants in their private residence provided it is not on federal land. In addition, they may possess and process a maximum of five lbs. of usable non-growing cannabis. If one private residence has several certified patients, they are limited to having a maximum of six immature and six mature female cannabis plants.
Local governments, such as counties, are not allowed to forbid certified patients from possessing, planting, growing, harvesting, drying, and processing the permitted number of medical cannabis plants from their private residences. Patients may do so indoors or in non-shared outdoor areas within their residential property, provided any cannabis-related activity is shielded from public view by means of fences, gates, and similar barriers. The cannabis plants must be locked and secured against unauthorized access by people below the age of 21 and animals.
If a patient cannot grow medical cannabis at home, the patient’s registered caregiver may do so on the patient’s behalf in the caregiver’s private residence. A caregiver can grow medical cannabis for up to four patients at a time but is limited to a maximum of six immature and six mature female cannabis plants at a time. Only one caregiver can grow medical cannabis for one patient.
Patients are not permitted to sell or trade homegrown medical cannabis plants and products. To avoid going over the prescribed limits if they have an excess, they are permitted to give away a maximum of three ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of cannabis concentrate to another certified patient or caregiver provided they do not receive anything in return.
To cultivate cannabis commercially, businesses must acquire an adult-use cultivator license from the OCM. The license authorizes them to acquire, possess, plant, grow, clone, harvest, dry, cure, grade, trim, and sell cannabis to licensed cannabis processors. Holders of the adult-use cultivator license are not allowed to have a cannabis retail dispensary license.
S.8084-A/A.9283-A, signed as law in February 2022, created the conditional adult-use cultivator license. This expands the authorization of the cultivator to include the processing of cannabis and cannabis products up to June 30, 2024, and the distribution of cannabis and cannabis products up to June 1, 2023. The purpose of the conditional license is to establish the adult-use cannabis market more quickly.
Cannabis manufacturing is legal in Albany County due to New York State’s MRTA. For certified patients and caregivers, homegrown cannabis can be processed at home. However, the use of flammable materials like butane and propane and any gas or liquid with a flashpoint lower than 100 degrees Fahrenheit is forbidden. The use of alcohol is also not recommended for cannabis extraction to prevent home fires.
To manufacture cannabis commercially, companies must apply for an adult-use processor license from the OCM. The license authorizes them to acquire, possess, process, package, brand, label, and sell cannabis to other licensed cannabis processors or licensed cannabis dispensaries. Holders of the adult-use processor license are not allowed to also hold a cannabis retail dispensary license.
Holders of the cannabinoid hemp processor license of the Cannabinoid Hemp Program are qualified to apply for the conditional adult-use processor license. In addition to enabling them to be part of the adult-use marijuana market, this license authorizes them to distribute cannabis and cannabis products up to June 1, 2023.
The Cannabis Control Board has set the following packaging and labeling requirements for holders of adult-use conditional cultivator licenses and adult-use conditional processor licenses:
The cannabis retail package must enclose the product completely, be child-resistant and tamper-evident, and comply with the Poison Prevention Packaging Standards and Testing Procedure for Special Packaging.
The cannabis retail package must not contaminate the product. It must protect the product against contaminants and light during storage. Packages containing multiple servings should be resealable.
The cannabis retail package must not be attractive to persons younger than 21 and must not include bright colors, cartoons, puffy fonts, holographic features, sound-making features, scent-emitting features, and similarities to the packaging of products marketed to people younger than 21.
The label must contain the following information in clear font 6-points or larger:
Serving size and number of servings in the package
Total tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and other phytocannabinoids content in milligrams per serving and per package
Total tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and other phytocannabinoids content as volume percentage per serving and per package for non-edible products
Terpene profile if the product is marketed accordingly
Complete list of ingredients, including major allergens identified by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004
Edible cannabis products must show a nutritional label
Clear instructions on product use
“Use by” date and expiration date of the cannabis product
Proper storage instructions
Manufacturer’s name, license number, address, and contact information
Unique lot number
Scannable QR code or bar code leading to the product’s certificate of analysis
Specific warnings and symbols required by the state of New York for cannabis products
Cannabis retail is legal in Albany County because of the MRTA of New York State. However, the MRTA also gave villages, towns, and cities up to December 31, 2021 to pass a local law if they wished to opt out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries in their territory and on-site consumption of adult-use cannabis in dispensaries. They could choose to opt out of one or both. Those who decide to do so, can still pass a new local law later to repeal their prohibition.
In Albany County, out of 19 localities, six opted out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries. From the 13 localities that allowed adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries, eight opted out of on-site consumption of cannabis in dispensaries.
For adult-use cannabis retail, interested businesses must apply for a conditional adult-use retail dispensary license (CAURD) from the OCM. Applications were, however, closed on September 26, 2021, and licensees are said to be ready to start operating before the end of 2022.
Since 2016, certified patients aged 18 and older and patients’ caregivers have been able to purchase medical cannabis from dispensing facilities of registered organizations in all forms, including flowers, tinctures, vaporizers, edibles, and others. The maximum quantity that can be purchased at one time is a 60-day supply based on the patient’s certification.
When making a purchase from a dispensing facility, patients are required to produce their certification as well as their medical marijuana registry ID card. When acquiring medical cannabis for their patients, caregivers are required to show both their identity card from the caregiver registry and the patient's certification.
Delivery of medical cannabis to the home of registered patients by the dispensing facilities of registered organizations is legal in Albany County under New York State’s MRTA. Once CAURD holders start operating their dispensing facilities, they will most likely be allowed to deliver cannabis products to adults aged 21 and older, as well.
To acquire a medical marijuana ID card, a resident of Albany County must find a medical practitioner who will determine if the patient has at least one of the qualifying medical conditions, as follows:
● Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
● Parkinson’s disease
● Multiple sclerosis
● Nervous tissue damage in the spinal cord with an indication of intractable spasticity
● Inflammatory bowel disease
● Huntington’s disease
● Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
● Substance use disorder
● Pain that degrades overall health with medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids
● Muscular dystrophy
● Rheumatoid arthritis
● Other conditions certified by the health care practitioner
After the healthcare provider issues the certification, the patient must register online. The patient must list the designated caregiver in the registration. Up to five caregivers are allowed for every patient. Once the patient’s registration is approved, the caregiver or caregivers must proceed to online caregiver registration. Patients and caregivers alike must provide acceptable proof of identity and residence.
A temporary medical marijuana registry ID card will be made available for printing upon submission of the registration, for use in purchasing medical cannabis. After processing, the medical marijuana registry ID card will be mailed to the patient and caregiver.
The OCM can be reached by email for queries about the Medical Cannabis Program at email@example.com, or by calling 844-863-9312.
When a registered organization sells medical cannabis to a certified patient or designated caregiver, a 7% excise tax is imposed on gross receipts. This tax cannot be passed on to patients or caregivers.
For adult-use cannabis, the MRTA imposes taxes on distributors and retail dispensaries:
Distributors will pay $0.03 per milligram of total THC in edible cannabis sold, $0.008 per milligram of total THC in cannabis concentrate sold, and $0.0005 per milligram of total THC in cannabis loose flowers, shakes, or pre-rolls sold.
Retail dispensaries will pay a 9% state excise tax on the price of every cannabis product sold.
Retail dispensaries will pay a 4% local excise tax on the price of every cannabis product sold. From this amount, 25% will go to the county and 75% will go to the city, town, or village where the product was sold. If the village is within a town, their share shall be divided according to their agreement, or evenly if there is no existing agreement.
All state funds from adult-use cannabis tax revenue will be sent to the New York State Cannabis Revenue Fund to cover the administrative costs of the MRTA. The remaining funds will be used as follows:
40% for the State Lottery Fund intended for education
40% for the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund intended for non-profit and community-based organizations in communities that have been impacted disproportionally by the cannabis ban, and for other initiatives toward social equity
20% for the Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund intended to develop and implement a statewide public education camp
Once the MRTA is fully implemented, it is expected that New York State will earn annual revenue of $360 million while local governments like Albany County will earn $75 million yearly.
The use of medical marijuana was legalized in New York State in 2016 while adult use was only legalized in 2021 and adult-use sales have not yet commenced. According to the FBI Crime Data Explorer, in 2015 there were 189 arrests for drug abuse violations, of which 55 were for marijuana possession. In 2020, this decreased to 91 arrests for drug abuse violations, of which 41 were for marijuana possession and one was for marijuana manufacturing or sales. DUI arrests also decreased from 52 in 2015 to 44 in 2020.