As New York continues to push for the legalization of marijuana, there are several factors that will all but certainly influence the outcome of the decision.
The following is a re-post of an article written by David Robinson of the Rockland/Westchester Journal
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New York’s recreational marijuana battle sits on the front line of a generational war over American cannabis laws. As debate heats up, USA TODAY Network New York is compiling answers to key questions about legalized cannabis.
Cannabis industry leaders have deployed waves of lobbyists amid New York’s marijuana legalization battle, spending millions of dollars since 2013.
Some newly reported lobbying contracts, costing up to $15,000 per month, got signed within days of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pro-recreational pot speech in January, suggesting a scramble to influence the legislation.
While adult-use marijuana legalization once seemed inevitable, its prospects of easy passage quickly diminished under opposition across law enforcement, health care and education groups.
Similarly, New Jersey’s recreational marijuana push stalled recently when a vote got pulled suddenly upon realizing it lacked enough support from legislators.
Much of the pro-marijuana lobbying money trail in New York leads to medical and recreational drug companies behind growing cannabis empires across the country.
What follows is an analysis of key marijuana lobbying disclosures in 2019, which is part of the USA TODAY Network New York’s ongoing investigation of efforts to influence state drug laws.
In terms of lobbying, Etain, which has medical marijuana dispensaries in Yonkers and Kingston, has outspent many competitors since New York started seriously debating marijuana laws in 2013.
The company paid out about $400,000 to lobbyists seeking sway over New York’s medical marijuana licensing, taxes and regulations between 2013 and 2018, records show.
It’s owned by members of the Peckham family and linked through real estate deals and other investments to Peckham Industries, a politically active road construction business in White Plains.
Etain has partnered with companies selling cannabis products in California, but executives last fall said lobbying in New York has focused exclusively on medical marijuana.
Etain’s current New York lobbying contract for $7,500 per month lists a California post office box. It was set to expire on the state budget deadline of March 31, 2019, but an amended version of the deal was not available recently through New York’s public lobbying database.
Etain’s Chief Operating Officer Hillary Peckham declined comment on the issue.
Columbia Care, which has a Monroe County manufacturing facility at Eastman Business Park and medical marijuana dispensary at Building 28 at the site in Rochester, has also been a top spender on lobbying.
The company’s disclosures show about $400,000 spent on lobbying related to medical marijuana between 2013 and 2018. Its current lobbying contracts for $19,000 per month list recreational and medical marijuana legislation as topics.
Columbia Care has medical marijuana operations in 12 states overall, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, USA TODAY Network reported.
The Midwest connection
Another New York political player has been Vireo Health, which has medical marijuana dispensaries in downtown White Plains and Johnson City.
About $300,000 of Vireo’s lobbying went toward efforts to secure a medical marijuana business license and influence regulatory decisions between 2013 and 2018.
But the lobbying focus has broadened recently as the company and its affiliates, known as Vireo, began trading on the Canadian stock exchange on March 20.
Minnesota-based Vireo’s CEO Dr. Kyle Kinglsey described plans to expand operations in New York and other states where cannabis-based drugs are allowed.
“We believe that science will drive the lion’s share of long-term opportunity in the cannabis industry,” Kingsley said.
The company’s expansion strategy included leveraging the cannabis-related technology it created, such as a variety of manufacturing and digital business platforms related to marijuana.
In February, Vireo signed new lobbying contracts in New York totaling about $12,500 per month. The topics involved are listed as medical marijuana and a state bill related to marijuana.
Meanwhile, Vireo’s multi-state medical marijuana business has been connected to a high-profile court battle in Minnesota.
Two former Vireo Health executives have been accused of smuggling medical marijuana from Minnesota into New York.
The case currently sits in one of Minnesota’s highest state courts, where arguments focus on whether state laws sufficiently address smuggling medical marijuana across state borders.
Investors, trade groups and advocates
Some of the pro-marijuana lobbying came from the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association, which includes Vireo Health, Columbia Care and three other medical marijuana companies in New York.
The group’s $5,000 per month lobbying contract in 2019 was part of its push to get existing medical marijuana companies a piece of the recreational pot market. It has touted the economic benefits of taxing legal weed, as well as the criminal justice reforms.
“This historic piece of legislation will raise the revenue that’s desperately needed to improve the lives of millions of New Yorkers,” said Adam Goers, chairperson of the group.
During a last-minute push to pass recreational marijuana in the state budget, Goers said legalizing adult-use marijuana enables New York to begin to address decades of abuse in communities of color brought on by the failed war on drugs.
Other lobbying came from growing cannabis conglomerates fueled by powerful investment groups.
For example, Acreage Holdings, the cannabis company behind a Super Bowl ad controversy, has a lobbying contract for $10,000 per month in New York through September. It recently opened a medical marijuana dispensary in Middletown targeting the Hudson Valley market.
Further, California-based MedMen, which took over Bloomfield Industries medical marijuana operation in New York, has lobbying filings showing its spending as $8,000 per month s in 2019, including work on recreational marijuana legislation.
Another major New York cannabis player is Citiva Medical, which recently opened aDutchess County medical marijuana dispensary.
It is affiliated with the pot conglomerate, iAnthus Capital, with medical and recreational operations in Colorado and Massachusetts and other states.
Citiva is building a 39,500-square-foot medical marijuana grow operation in Orange County, and is poised to add recreational weed.
Citiva spent about $160,000 lobbying marijuana in New York between 2013 and 2018, citing “health care issues” on some filings without listing specific legislation.
Its executives last year said they haven’t spent money on lobbying recreational pot in New York, which they viewed as an inevitability.
No lobbying reports have been filed in 2019 for the company, according to a records search.
This article was first published on https://www.cannabisimp.com.