Marijuana Industry On the Horizon

Two democratic state legislators sponsored a panel at the 2014 International Cannabis Association East Coast Cannabis Business Expo, Educational Conference & Regulatory Summit to discuss the business side of implementing medical marijuana programs in New York. The current legislation allows only five growing hubs with four dispensaries each.  Additionally, only certain illnesses qualify to receive the drug.

Some interesting issues were debated and brought to light. Notably the adequacy of such few growers and retailers to support a large state population was a concern. I feel the proposed marijuana industry regulation is contrary to much of the fundamental principles behind New York’s Alcohol Beverage Control Law. The alcohol industry forbids a single person or entity from holding both manufacturing and retail interests. To the contrary, the marijuana law combines manufacturing and retail distribution interests within a single entity or individual. Additionally, allowing only five hubs will essentially require a large capital investment to get into the business, and only large entities will be capable of supporting that investment. To the contrary, no individual can have an interest in more than one liquor store (single location), effectively keeping big companies from controlling the industry in any significant manner.

It has been suggested that the State Liquor Authority might be the best agency to regulate the new marijuana industry in New York. If that is true (which I believe it is), then why is the ideology for marijuana regulation so different and seemingly opposing to the underlying principles for the state’s alcohol regulation? Are we saying the Alcoholic Beverage Control Laws are not working or are based on a flawed premise?

I am interested in your opinions and ideas. What are your thoughts on the proposed regulatory structure for New York’s medical marijuana business? Who do you think should regulate the growers and retailers?