New York Marijuana Cultivation License

Does New York Require Marijuana Growers to Obtain Cultivation License?

Yes. Per the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 31, 2021, marijuana growers in the state are required to obtain adult-use cultivator licenses to legally participate in the cannabis industry. Marijuana cultivation in New York refers to the growing, cloning, harvesting, drying, curing, grading, and trimming of cannabis plants. An adult-use cultivator license authorizes the acquisition, possession, distribution, cultivation, and sale of cannabis from the licensed premises of the license holders to licensed marijuana processors.

Note that the MRTA also permits adults aged 21 and older to grow up to 6 plants in their homes for personal use (3 mature plants and 3 immature plants). A household can also grow up to 12 plants (6 mature plants and 6 immature plants, even if more than 3 adults reside in the household). The home cultivation of cannabis plants may only be permitted 18 months after recreational dispensaries open their doors.

What Are the Different Types of Cultivation Licenses in New York?

The New York Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) also permits Registered organization adult-use cultivator licensees to legally cultivate marijuana in the state. A Registered Organization Adult-Use Cultivator License holder has the same authorization and scope of activities as an adult-use cultivator licensee. However, sales of adult-use cannabis and cannabis products by such license holders are limited to licensed adult-use processors. A Registered Organization Adult-Use Cultivator License does not qualify the holder for any other adult-use license.

Who Can Grow Marijuana in New York?

The New York MRTA does not include broad prohibitions on licensure or employment for felons. Rather than that, it prohibits the licensing of individuals convicted of crimes connected to owning and running a company, such as fraud and tax evasion. Anyone can apply to legally grow marijuana in New York provided they are above the age of 21 and can demonstrate sufficient knowledge about the marijuana industry, cultivation of marijuana, and have not been involved in fraudulent actions.

Certain licensing requirements for employees and owners of cannabis cultivation establishments may apply when the Office of Cannabis Management establishes the rules for the cannabis industry in New York.

How to Get a Marijuana Cultivation License in New York

Cannabis cultivation licenses will be issued by the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), an agency recently created under the MRTA. Before licenses can be issued by the OCM, the Office needs to draft and issue regulations to implement the state’s cannabis laws. Therefore, the application procedures and timelines for cannabis cultivation licenses are yet to be known.

Although the OCM is currently not accepting applications for new licenses, certain requirements and guidelines are already stipulated within the MRTA. For instance, the MRTA requires that applicants must be aged 21 or older to apply for cultivation licenses while licenses must be renewed two years after the date of issue.

The MRTA also requires that the OCM develop regulations for determining whether an applicant should be granted a license, based on, but not limited to the following conditions:

  • The applicant may be regarded as a social and economic equity applicant.
  • The applicant will be able to effectively regulate illegal cannabis trafficking.
  • The applicant will be in compliance with all applicable state laws and regulations.
  • The applicant and the cannabis business's leadership are prepared, willing, and capable of engaging in the activities for which a license is being sought.
  • The applicant owns or has the right to use adequate land, buildings, and equipment to conduct the activity specified in the application correctly, or has a plan to do so if qualifying as a social and economic equity applicant
  • The applicant demonstrates a commitment to helping communities and individuals disproportionately affected by cannabis law enforcement

New York embraced the concept of social and economic equity under the MRTA in order to ensure that members of minority communities who have been negatively and disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition would benefit from legalization. The social and economic equality initiative is intended to assist those in the minority, women-owned companies, struggling farmers, and handicapped veterans, in obtaining lucrative licenses. The assistance offered to persons in these categories include the opportunity to have their application expedited; priority or exclusive access to specified licensing classes or categories; priority access to specific markets; fee reduction or delay; and access to low- or no-interest financing.

Additionally, preference will be given to applicants who have an income that is less than 80% of the median income in the county in which they reside, have been convicted of a marijuana offense, or have a close family member who has been convicted.

The New York MRTA recommends that it is in the public interest that an applicant is granted a cultivation license, taking into consideration, but not limited to the following conditions:

  • That cultivating, processing, distributing, and selling adult-use cannabis is a privilege, not a right
  • The quantity, kind, and nature of other licenses in the vicinity of the site and within the municipality or subdivision thereof
  • Evidence that all required licenses and permissions have been acquired or will be obtained from the state and any other appropriate regulatory authorities
  • The effect of the license grant on pedestrian and vehicular traffic, as well as parking, in the vicinity of the site
  • The current noise level at the site and any additional noise produced by the proposed premises
  • Capacity to minimize negative environmental consequences, including but not limited to water use, energy consumption, and carbon emissions
  • The impact on cannabis production and availability
  • Any additional criteria stated by law or regulation that are important in determining whether issuing a license will benefit the public convenience and benefit, as well as the community's public interest
  • The applicant and its management executives are of sound moral character and do not possess or control more licenses or permits than are permitted under the MRTA
  • The applicant has entered into a labor peace agreement with a bonafide labor organization that is actively representing or attempting to represent the applicant's employees, and the applicant's continued compliance with the terms of the labor peace agreement shall be a material condition of licensure. When evaluating applications from entities with 25 or more employees, the OCM shall give priority to applicants who are a party to collective bargaining agreements with bonafide labor organizations in New York or another state and who construct their licensed facility using union labor
  • The applicant will make contributions to communities and individuals that are disproportionately affected by cannabis law enforcement and will disclose these contributions to the OCM
  • The applicant must demonstrate the satisfaction of any other conditions imposed by the OCM; and if the applicant is a registered organization, the applicant must demonstrate the establishment's continued effort in manufacturing, dispensing, and/or researching medical cannabis for certification.

Per Section 3.1 of the MRTA, applicants for cannabis cultivation licenses must have "a significant presence" in New York. Corporations and legal entities must:

  • Have their main place of business in New York
  • Be incorporated (or otherwise formed) under New York law
  • Have a majority of their ownership as New York residents.

Pursuant to Section 62.3 of the MRTA, applicants will be required to affirm that their applications are true under the penalty of perjury. Per Section 62.2 of the MRTA, they can also expect to be required to provide:

  • Information about race and ethnic origin
  • Information on ownership and investment (including corporate structure)
  • Demonstration of moral integrity (including fingerprinting)
  • Information about the cannabis establishment premises
  • Financial statements

Note that certain local ordinances may apply and some approvals may be required at the county or municipal levels for a cannabis license application to be successful. The ordinances and approvals vary per the proposed location of the cannabis establishment. Hence, it is recommended that you research the specific regulations, permits, and approvals applicable to your locality before submitting your application to the OCM.

Per Section 76 of the MRTA, a cannabis license applicant in New York is required to inform the municipality in which the cannabis establishment will be situated of the intention to file an application for a cannabis license. The notification must be filed with the municipal clerk, not less than 30 days nor more than 270 days prior to submitting the state licensing application. The notification must follow the Cannabis Control Board's format.

If a local government offers an opinion in favor or against issuing the registration, license, or permit application, that view becomes part of the record on which the Office of Cannabis Management bases its licensure recommendation to the Cannabis Control Board. The Cannabis Control Board will respond in writing to the municipality with an explanation of how such a view was weighed in determining whether to grant or refuse the application.

Applicants who have had their applications denied may apply to the Cannabis Control Board for a review of the decisions in a manner that will be provided by the rules of the Board. You may keep up to date with information on the application window and timeline by checking the OCM website frequently.

How Much Do Marijuana Cultivation Licenses Cost in New York?

It is not yet certain how much a New York cannabis cultivation license will cost. However, per MRTA, it is clear that the fee will be non-refundable and may be waived or reduced for equity application. Section 63.1 of the MRTA] also indicates that the fee may be based on the type of cultivation license sought and other factors.

Can Licensed Marijuana Cultivators Hold Other Cannabis Licenses in New York?

New York allows adult-use cultivation licensees to apply for and obtain one processor's license and one distributor's license solely for the distribution of their own products. However, persons who have obtained cultivation licenses cannot hold a retail dispensary license.

New York Marijuana Cultivation License