New York Aims to Adopt Adult Use Cannabis, Tout Regional Cooperation

By New Frontier Data

Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo presented an FY 2021 budget outline to legalize and tax adult-use cannabis in the nation’s fourth-largest state and one of its cultural centers and tourist meccas.

With a population of 19.5 million residents, New York in 2020 commences its fifth year of legal medical cannabis sales. Overcoming some implementational issues during the program’s rollout and first few years of operation, the Empire State adopted some important regulatory changes to improve patient access and participation. Now, New York (as of January 21) has 112,569 certified patients and 2,648 registered physician practitioners participating in its medical program, which projects to exceed $500 million in annual sales by 2025.

According to New Frontier Data’s calculations, should New York legalize cannabis for adult use this year, projected annual sales of adult-use cannabis will surpass $2.4 billion by 2025.

The move backed up the rhetoric in the governor’s State of the State address from two weeks ago, when he pledged to pass a legal program which had proved elusive in 2019. In last year’s legislative session, lawmakers failed to reach consensus about issues including managing revenue, supporting minority communities, and maintaining public safety. Cuomo’s proposal remains similar to what he proposed last year, including empaneling a five-member control board to oversee the adult-use, medical and cannabinoid hemp industries.

Cuomo also aspires for “regional symmetry” with bordering states’ legalized programs in order to avoid a patchwork of competing cannabis markets with broadly different regulations and prices across state lines. Last October, Cuomo organized a regional cannabis summit with state executives from neighboring Connecticut and New Jersey, though specifics to promote regional parity remain unclear as the respective states are yet devising their own programs and markets. For instance, after New Jersey legislators failed to pass a legalization bill for the Garden State last year, the issue has been passed to voters via a ballot referendum this fall.

Outside of New York’s existing legal medical cannabis program, the state has an estimated 1.6 million people who consume cannabis at least once a month, and 2.4 million who report consuming some at least once per year. Factoring in that the cultural epicenter of New York City draws an estimated 65.2 million visitors annually, the convergence of factors manifested in New York stands to make it one of the legal cannabis industry’s most influential markets, both domestically and internationally.