Last year many cannabis advocates rejoiced when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) changed his position on legalizing recreational cannabis. His position on cannabis for years was that it is a gateway drug and it should remain illegal. However, the joy advocates felt has been diminished with the governor’s proposal. It was revealed that part of his budget that would include a ban on home cultivation of recreational cannabis. It should be noted that Cuomo does include a home grow option for medical cannabis patients in his budget plan.
It has been reported that the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association —comprised of executives of the state’s licensed medical cannabis providers, sent his office their policy statement offering “some thoughts on various issues associated with a transition from medical to adult-use.” Politico first reported the existence of the document in December and Marijuana Moment obtained the 29-page memo through a state freedom of information law request.
The group acknowledges that many opt for home cultivation to save money and as an expression of their individual civil liberty. However, the association states that home cultivation “creates significant public safety and black market risk.”
The chapter, “The Fallacy of Home Grow” makes several points against allowing cannabis cultivation for personal use. The five claims made to support that position include:
- Home grow will make it impossible for the state to eliminate the black market.
- Home grow will make it impossible for law enforcement to distinguish between legal and illegal products, thus frustrating enforcement efforts.
- Home grow will undermine the state’s harm reduction goal of ensuring that cannabis sold in New York State is grown without harmful pesticides or other contaminants.
- Home grow will undermine the state’s public health interest in ensuring that cannabis sold in New York State is tested, packaged, and labeled correctly.
- Home grow will cost the state tax revenue, thus hindering the state’s ability to fund priorities such as drug abuse treatment and community investment.
Melissa Moore, New York deputy state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, disputes the claim that home cultivation will make it impossible for the state to eliminate the black market.
“It’s really disingenuous to try to say that it would not be possible to eliminate the illicit market if we allow for home grow. That certainly hasn’t been the experience of other states that allow home grow,” she said in a phone interview with Marijuana Moment about this issue.
“From our perspective, it’s really hard to see any real reason—other than individual and corporate greed—to be against home cultivation at this point,” Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview. “There’s not a lot of rational concerns when it comes to allowing a limited amount of plants for an individual to grow at home.”
It should be noted that this position does not reflect other industry groups such as the National Cannabis Industry Association, which has stated home grown cannabis can benefit businesses.
“NCIA does not oppose limited home cultivation,” Morgan Fox, media relations director at the group, said. “In fact, it can act as an incubator for people to develop skills which can be used in the legal cannabis industry, which benefits businesses as well as individuals looking to enter the market. Much like home brewing has helped spur interest the craft beer market, limited home cannabis cultivation can do the same in legal states.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is also fighting for local control of the cannabis industry with an anti-corporate stance. In a 77-page report, De Blasio’s panel called for a “measured” approach to recreational cannabis, “allowing time for consultation and coordination between the state and localities.”
“Legalization can follow two routes,” wrote de Blasio in his panel’s report. “In one, corporate cannabis rushes in and seizes a big, new market, driven by a single motive: greed. In another, New Yorkers build their own local cannabis industry, led by small businesses and organized to benefit our whole diverse community.”
Senate President Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) and other lawmakers are stating that it is doubtful that cannabis reform will become part of the state budget. There will probably be negotiations in separate legislation could end up resulting in a law that allows consumers to grow their own cannabis.
Home growing has been addressed in almost all legal adult-use cannabis systems operating in the US except the state of Washington.