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Marijuana Industry Faces Questions and Stigma As New York Legalization Rolls Out

United States Fish And Wildlife Service
Marijuana plants on a farm

A lot of questions remain about the newly legal marijuana industry after New York legalized its use in April. State regulations are not yet fully established by the newly introduced Office of Cannabis Management, leaving people who want to get into the industry in limbo.

Alan Gandelman is the president of the New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association, an organization that represents businesses trying to enter the industry. He said one of the biggest challenges facing local businesses is actually federal legalization of marijuana.

“It’s going to take someone two, three, four years to really get a foundation built for a small business here in New York, and if the federal government comes in before that happens, it’s going to be very hard to get your feet under you,” he said.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer introduced a legalization bill this year, along with Senators Cory Booker and Ron Wyden, who co-sponsored the bill.

Gandelman said the regulation changes the bill would introduce will hurt small businesses getting off the ground because they would be forced to deal with not only New York’s regulations but potentially contradictory federal ones.

“If something like that passed it would wipe out all of the New York businesses actually from before they even started,” he said.

Concerns about the sale of the drug in Central New York remain, with village governments such as Manlius and Cazenovia prohibiting dispensaries within their borders. Communities still have the opportunity to opt in to allowing marijuana sales at any point even if they don’t initially permit it.

Gandelman said he understands the stigma against marijuana use and sales but he thinks it will soon be a thing of the past.

“I do think that in another five or ten years, we’ll never even remember there was a stigma around this industry,” he said.

That change was reflected at the polls. Five of the six municipalities that had it on the ballot in Onondaga County in last week’s election voted to allow marijuana sales.

Gandelman spoke at the the long-running Thursday Morning Roundtable forum hosted by the Office of Community Engagement at Syracuse University.