New York Cannabis Attorneys

The medical use of cannabis has been legalized in New York since 2014. It was not until 2021 that a bill was signed to also make recreational cannabis legal in the state.

While this has prompted great excitement in the local business and cannabis communities, state legislators are still keeping a tight rein on the industry.

A range of different cannabis business licenses is available now in New York, including adult-use cultivator licenses, retail dispensary licenses, and others. It is hoped that this will create thousands of new jobs and raise important revenue for the state, while also helping those who have been most impacted by past cannabis laws.

The application process can be arduous, with a rigorous vetting process. Every business engaging in the sector must also comply with stringent regulations.

It’s critical to understand the laws and your obligations as a business owner in the state. Violations can result in administrative penalties. Furthermore, unlicensed or improperly licensing growing, processing, or retailing of cannabis-related products can lead to felony charges and serious prison time.

The cannabis attorneys at Cannabis Law Solutions have been tracking the emerging cannabis industry in New York for many years. Our comprehensive understanding of the regulations can help you navigate the complex legal landscape and capitalize on the business opportunities available.

Laws for cannabis possession (personal use) in New York

The New York laws for possession of cannabis for personal use are as follows:

Up to three ounces 

  • No criminal offense, no incarceration and no fine

Between three and eight ounces 

  • Misdemeanor criminal offense with up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine

More than eight ounces up to one pound

  • Felony offense with up to four years in prison and a $5,000 fine

One pound to 10 pounds

  • Felony offense with up to seven years in prison and a $5,000 fine

More than 10 pounds

  • Felony offense with up to 15 years in prison and a $15,000 fine

In public view

  • Violation, no incarceration and a $200 fine

Laws for the sale and trafficking of cannabis in New York

The New York laws for the sale or trafficking of cannabis are as follows:

Without compensation up to three ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of concentrate

  • No criminal offense, no incarceration and no fine

25 grams or less

  • Misdemeanor criminal offense with up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine

25 grams – four ounces

  • Felony offense with up to 4 years in prison and a $5,000 fine

Four ounces – one pound

  • Felony offense with up to 7 years in prison and a $5,000 fine

More than one pound

  • Felony offense with up to 15 years in prison and a $15,000 fine

Using a child to assist

  • Felony offense with up to 4 years in prison and a $5,000 fine

To a minor

  • Felony offense with up to 7 years in prison and a $5,000 fine

Trafficking any amount

  • Felony offense with 15-25 years in prison and a $100,000 fine
  • Mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years

Laws for the cultivation of cannabis in New York

The New York cannabis cultivation laws are as follows:

Up to six plants (three mature):

  • No criminal offense, no incarceration and no fine

More than six plants 

  • Misdemeanor criminal offense with up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine

New York cannabis business license types

The agreement to legalize recreational-use cannabis signed in March 2021 set up a licensing and taxation system for the sale of cannabis.

The types of licenses available currently are the following:

  • Adult-use cultivator license
  • Adult-use processor license
  • Small business cooperative license
  • Adult-use distributor license
  • Adult-use retail dispensary license
  • Microbusiness license
  • New York cannabis delivery license
  • New York cannabis nursery license

How do you make a cannabis license application in New York?

As part of New York’s law to legalize cannabis, the state created the independent Office of Cannabis Management within the New York State Liquor Authority.

This office is responsible for regulating the recreational cannabis market and the existing medical cannabis program.

License applications must be made in writing to the Office of Cannabis Management and licenses are available for cultivation, processing, distribution, and dispensing cannabis in New York. A separate license is required for each facility at which these activities take place.

A raft of documentation must be submitted with a license application and the appropriate license fees paid. Before starting your application, you should be clear on the extensive list of requirements, which includes the following information:

  • The applicant’s identity, including racial and ethnic background
  • Ownership and investment information, including the corporate structure of the company
  • Evidence of the good moral character of the owner(s)
  • Financial statements
  • Information about the premises to be licensed

The applicant must also submit fingerprints for a criminal background check to be performed. The award of a license may be contingent upon the applicant having no past criminal record.

Different rules have been created for cultivators, processors, distributors, and dispensaries but all face stringent eligibility requirements.

Key selection criteria for New York cannabis licenses 

Once you apply for your cannabis license, the Office of Cannabis Management will consider many criteria before granting a license.

Generally speaking, priority is given to:

  • Social and economic equity applicants (see more about this below)
  • Applicants who can effectively protect against the illegal diversion of cannabis
  • Applicants who can comply with all applicable state laws and regulations
  • Applicants who are ready, willing, and able to perform the activities associated with their license
  • Applicants with sufficient land, buildings, and equipment to properly perform the activities associated with the license
  • Applicants with a plan for benefiting communities and people disproportionately impacted by enforcement of cannabis laws
  • Applicants for whom it is in the public interest to grant a license (considerations such as employment opportunities, community wealth, noise levels, traffic impact, etc.)

For help with obtaining a cannabis license in New York, the experienced cannabis attorneys at Cannabis Law Solutions can help you navigate the application process.

What are the New York cannabis license fees?

The license fees for New York adult-use cannabis licenses have not yet been finalized.

In the past, medical cannabis license applicants have had to submit a $10,000 non-refundable application fee and a refundable registration fee of $20,000.

At present for recreational cannabis, all we know is the following:

  • There will be an application fee (probably non-refundable)
  • Fee amounts are likely to be based on the type of license sought (cultivator, processor, distributor or retail dispensary) as well as product volumes, etc.
  • A biennial license fee will be payable based on the amount of cannabis to be cultivated, processed, distributed and/or dispensed or the gross annual receipts of the licensee for the previous license period
  • Fees may be waived or reduced for equity applicants

The cannabis social equity program in New York

There is a recognition that certain communities in New York have suffered disproportionately from enforcement measures related to past cannabis laws.

To address this, the Office of Cannabis Management aims to create a social responsibility framework agreement that licensees agree to adhere to.

The policy is to promote applicants who foster racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in their workplace and each applicant will need to demonstrate how they benefit the impacted communities.

Cannabis business legal planning, advice and support in New York

Whether you want to grow, manufacture, retail or otherwise be part of the burgeoning cannabis industry in New York, the legal hurdles are likely to be substantial.

Our cannabis business attorneys can provide the knowledge and support you need to plan, incorporate, protect, and grow a successful cannabis business.

For informed legal advice, call 866-329-0729 for a consultation with a knowledgeable cannabis attorney at Cannabis Law Solutions.

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How will our cannabis services help you?

Cannabis business entity formation

Whether you are looking to form a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation, our experienced business lawyers can discuss the pros and cons of both and help you incorporate your business with the optimal structure to achieve your goals.

Cannabis business licenses

If you want to run a cannabis business, you will need a valid business license issued by your state authority as well as local permits. Eligibility criteria are likely to be stringent and we can help you navigate the often-complex license application process.

Cannabis corporate documentation

Whether you need to prepare for a license application, transfer of business ownership, change of corporate structure, transfer business location, or another business process, we can help you identify and draft the documentation you need to operate legally in your state.

Cannabis administrative law

State authorities watch licensed and unlicensed cannabis businesses closely. If you violate regulations, you could face an administrative penalty. Our attorneys can provide representation or help you prepare for an administrative hearing, settlement conference or appeal.

Cannabis disputes and litigation

Whether you have a dispute with another business, a legal issue with one of your partners or a licensing or administrative issue, you may need legal assistance to help resolve it. We are adept at alternative dispute resolution methods as well as civil litigation.

Regulatory compliance

As the cannabis industry emerges in states around the U.S., it is more heavily regulated than most other industries. We can help your business navigate the red tape and plan to stay on the right side of the regulatory authorities in whichever state you are based.