Getting down to cannabusiness: Regulators approve common-sense cannabis rules, action needed on drivers

June 06, 2022

Originally published in New York Daily News on June 06, 2022.

In approving draft regulations for the labeling, marketing and testing of New York cannabis products, the Office of Cannabis Management and Cannabis Control Board has laid out the blueprint of a solid foundation for a local cannabis industry.

These standards will help ensure a safe and responsible rollout of what may be an immense new marketplace by, among other things, prohibiting packaging and marketing designed to appeal to minors and forcing manufacturers to carefully document vital information like potency and ingredients. The licensing of additional growers will also help ensure that consumers have sufficient legal supply, reducing the black market

Left on deck is a fix to the current prohibition on marijuana use by motor vehicle drivers, which has proven to be a serious problem in a number of other states that have legalized pot. New York long ago established that no one should be in any way impaired as they operate a multi-ton machine capable of crushing bikes and pedestrians, but we’ve also accepted that someone with a trace amount of alcohol in their blood is not a danger and certainly should not be treated the same as an intoxicated driver with dulled reflexes and poor judgment.

As long as marijuana was illegal, it made sense for any amount of cannabis in a driver to be a violation. With the substance now legal for recreational use and on the cusp of widespread availability, it is imperative to explicitly establish both that officers can check for marijuana impairment, and that mere use or possession does not in and of itself mean a driver is impaired.

A bill pending in the Legislature would establish processes for law enforcement to question and, when needed, test drivers for cannabis consumption, while clarifying that this only rises to the level of infraction if they have “impaired, to any extent, the physical and mental abilities” necessary to operate a vehicle. Pass this fix ahead of the expected widespread opening of the cannabis market at the end of the year.