Chamber hears update on cannabis licensing

·3 min read

Sep. 22—Conditional retail licenses to sell cannabis are expected to be given before the end of the year, Delaware County Chamber of Commerce members heard during a video conference on Thursday, Sept. 22.

The chamber held a "Chamber Connects" meeting with Jennifer Metzger, a board member of the state Office of Cannabis Management, to get an update on the progress of the board.

Metzger said the Office of Cannabis Management oversees the existing medical marijuana and cannabinoid hemp producers programs and will oversee the new adult-use marijuana program, which includes growers, producers and retailers.

She said the five-member board, which held its first meeting last October, "has been really, really busy," getting the new state agency up and running. "We have hired over 100 staff" and will eventually have more than 200 employees, she said.

The staff will be tasked with compliance, inspections and public health information. "It's a really comprehensive agency," she said.

One of the first steps the agency did was eliminate fees for medical marijuana users. On Tuesday, the board voted to allow medical marijuana users to grow five plants at home, she said.

The board also discussed issuing on-the-farm processing licenses to help small farms. "This will increase the value of their farm," she said.

The office has issued 261 conditional cultivation licenses throughout the state. All of the farms that received the licenses to grow cannabis were licensed hemp growers, she said.

According to chamber President Ray Pucci, there are three farms in Delaware County that were granted the conditional licenses to grow cannabis.

Metzger said 25 conditional processor licenses were issued statewide and all were also hemp processors. She said the conditional adult-use retail dispensary regulations have been posted on the office's website and public comment will close Sept. 26.

She said once comments have been reviewed and the regulations passed, businesses can apply for a conditional license. The goal is to have the retail sites open by the end of the year, she said.

Metzger said the goal is to issue 50% of all adult-use licenses to social and economic equity applicants. Those include people who have past marijuana convictions, farmers, veteran-owned businesses and businesses owned by minorities or women, she said.

This year's state budget included a $200 million public-private fund to help establish the retail sites, she said. "So often people do not have access to capital," she said. The fund was earmarked to be loans to help business owners invest in or lease retail space or outfit current space.

She said the board is still working on regulations in regard to testing, marketing, labeling and packaging the cannabis for retail use, and the hope is to have those ready for public review by November.

Metzger answered some questions including whether cultivators will be able to obtain nursery licenses so they can genetically modify their own seeds that will grow better in the state's climate.

She said nursery licensing wasn't included in the law that was passed, so conditional licenses cannot be issued. However, she said it was an important issue.

Someone asked when people will be able to grow their own marijuana plants. Metzger said the law says 18 months after retail licenses are issued, but the board is looking to have that changed so it's sooner.

Pucci asked when non-conditional licenses will be available to the public. Metzger said "I'm hoping the first quarter of 2023, you will get to see changes. You will get a general idea of where where we're going when we put out the draft regulations of November. People should already be thinking of their business plan."

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at vklukkert@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221.