Capitol Notes

Marijuana legalization may not save hemp joints in New York

Proposed state regulations banning the sale of hemp flower or pre-rolled joints in New York may not be reversed by the legislative campaign to legalize adult-use marijuana.

Speaking Wednesday to The Capitol Pressroom, Sen. Liz Krueger, sponsor of the marijuana legislation, said it was her understanding that the proposal being negotiated with the Cuomo administration wouldn’t make hemp flower illegal, but stressed that the state Department of Health would retain the authority to determine how certain cannabis products are used.

“This bill does leave decisions about health – and any of these products – to the Department of Health experts,” said Krueger, who added that the intention of the proposal is to “respect” the opinion of officials in the state Department of Health.

The DOH has defended their restrictions on hemp flower and hemp joints as in keeping with the administration’s focus on reducing smoking more broadly. The Cuomo administration’s cannabis czar, Norman Birenbaum, has turned down multiple invites from The Capitol Pressroom to explain the policy.

A potential compromise between the Cuomo administration and Democratic lawmakers pushing for marijuana legalization would be to allow raw hemp flower to be sold by farmers and retailers, while prohibiting the sale of hemp joints, known in the industry as pre-rolls. Legislation has been making its way through the committee process in Albany that would legalize the sale of  cannabinoid hemp flower, but it hasn’t reached the floor in either house.

Asked whether the DOH would also have the authority to restrict the sale of cannabis joints with THC, Krueger said, “I suppose hypothetically it’s possible.”

“That is certainly not an expectation that we have at this time, nor (has) anyone from the executive shop put forward that this is a likely reality, but again, never say ‘never,'” she added.

Regardless of the rules the Cuomo administration might adopt in the future, Krueger noted that personal use of marijuana would be completely removed from the criminal code if her legalization proposal becomes law.

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