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New York Cannabis Control Board Expands Medical Marijuana Program in First Meeting

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Exterior view of the New York State Capitol, Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)
New York's new Cannabis Control Board met Tuesday for its inaugural meeting to expand the Empire State's medical cannabis program effective immediately and appoint key staffers following months of delays.
"The MRTA was signed into law on March 31. We were not able to begin the work of establishing New York's cannabis market until September 22 when the full Cannabis Control Board was appointed. As such, we have a six-month delay to make up," Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Christopher Alexander said during Tuesday's meeting.
Changes to the state's medical cannabis program include approving whole cannabis flower for sale to medical patients; authorizing any practitioner who is licensed to prescribe a controlled substance to certify medical patients; increasing the amount of medical cannabis dispensed to caregivers and patients from a 30-day supply to a 60-day supply; waiving the $50 patient and caregiver registration fee; and streamlining approval for facilities like hospitals, residential facilities, and schools to become caregiver sites.
"Due to the delay in appointing the full Cannabis Control Board, We have missed the first deadline. Nevertheless, we are very committed to drafting these regulations," said Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright. "Expanding...patient access to medical cannabis, and improving patient care is a mandate that this board takes very seriously."
The medical program in New York state has been criticized as limited, but Alexander said he hopes the expansion of clinical providers eligible to certify medical patients and the authorization of whole flower sales will increase participation in the program.
During the brief meeting, the board also selected Jason Starr as chief equity officer. Starr is currently the director of litigation at the Human Rights Campaign and has over a decade of experience in civil rights law and advocacy and social justice policy. He previously served as counsel for civil rights and federal affairs in New York's Office of the Governor, according to Wright.
Following passage of the resolution to approve Starr, the board approved a package of 21 candidates for senior positions of the Cannabis Control Board.
"We have staff," Wright said.
Following staffing decisions, Wright said the first order of business will be to launch a public education campaign to ensure New Yorkers know what to expect with legal cannabis and how they can participate in the industry. Education will focus on key provisions in the law, drugged driving, cannabis product storage, and risks for youth and breastfeeding individuals. 
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), passed in March, created the five-member Cannabis Control Board and Office of Cannabis Management to regulate and oversee New York's cannabis industry. But the process was beset by months of delays due to conflict between former Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. But Governor Kathy Hochul vowed to move ahead with Cannabis Control Board appointments soon after taking office in August, the New York Post reported.
On the back of new staffing, the Cannabis Control Board and Office of Cannabis Management officials made it clear Tuesday they aim to make up for lost time.
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