Job seekers interested in working in the state’s growing cannabis market are invited to attend a local job fair this week.
The state Department of Labor is hosting a Finger Lakes Cannabis mini job fair from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Rochester Career Center at 276 Waring Road in Rochester.
Several local businesses – including A Walk in the Pines, Flower City Dispensary and Honest Hemp Co. – are hiring for a variety of positions, including administrative, warehouse and fulfillment, sales, growers and advertising.
Job seekers should bring several copies of their resumes. Professional attire is required.
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which was signed into law by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 31, 2021, legalized the recreational use of cannabis in New York.
The Office of Cannabis Management is now accepting applications for Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary licenses through Sept. 26.
Entering the growing cannabis market in New York requires a certain amount of tenacity, according to Glenna Colaprete.
And while there are many hurdles and challenges to face when starting out, she believes it’s worth the effort.
“Never give up,” said Colaprete, owner and CEO of Glenna’s CBD & Spa and owner and CEO of Glenna & Co., an adult-use cannabis cultivator. “There’s a place for everyone in this space.”
Colaprete was a panelist at the recent RBJ and The Daily Record’s Business of Cannabis webinar where local experts discussed how the legalization of recreational marijuana is progressing and how it is affecting the overall cannabis industry in New York.
The webinar was sponsored by Glenna’s CBD and Phillips Lytle.
Colaprete was joined on the panel by David L. Cook, partner at Phillips Lytle LLP and a leader of the firm’s Hemp/Cannabis practice team; Zachary Sarkis, owner and operator of FLWR City Collective and Jacob Zoghlin, partner at The Zoghlin Group and chair of the firm’s Cannabis Law practice/ group.
Colaprete is a licensed cannabinoid cultivator, processor, distributor and retailer. She is also an adjunct professor in the horticulture program teaching regulations in cannabis cultivation at Finger Lakes Community College.
She spoke about licensing requirements and workforce development in the cannabis space, noting there are job opportunities across the state.
“This will be quite an economic boon for people potentially,” she said, adding that a portion of the tax dollars generated will also go back to the community in several ways, such as through grants, drug treatment programs and educational opportunities.
Colaprete said there are steps one must take to enter the cannabis industry, adding that it is essential to have a good support system, know the laws and do the preliminary work early on so when the time comes, one is ready to move forward.
“Be totally prepared as it all rolls out,” she said.
Zoghlin gave an overview of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act which was signed into law by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 31, 2021, legalizing the recreational use of cannabis in New York.
He spoke of the tax regulations around the new law and the implications for municipalities who opt out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses.
He also gave an overview of the extensive marketing and advertising requirements for cannabis businesses.
Zoghlin noted that the primary purpose of such marketing is to displace the illicit market and to inform consumers of the locations of licensed retail stores.
In addition, a retail licensee’s marketing and advertising cannot jeopardize public health or safety, promote youth use or be attractive to people under 21, he said.
Cook spoke about zoning and agriculture districts, noting the importance of location and determining which sites would be amenable to grow operations.
“It’s all about location, location, location,” Cook said. “It’s absolutely critical to this business.”
He added that local municipalities either are, or will be, reviewing their local codes, seeking public input and implementing local code changes that could have a significant impact on grow operations.
Cook’s recommendations for future growers include targeting county-certified agriculture districts, knowing the tax benefits associated with growing in agricultural districts and obtaining a review of local laws in the event a municipality is using zoning to block necessary approvals.
Sarkis spoke about the culture and history of cannabis, noting its benefits go beyond financial and include spiritual and healing, as well as celebration.
“This culture has a long history and is ever evolving,” Sarkis said, adding that the adult-use laws could create a cannabis sector in New York that is complementary to the region’s craft food, wine and beer markets.
He added that hemp was a founding crop of the British when they came to America. It came under attack last century, with the war on drugs, which had local and global impacts. Those most negatively affected have been people of color and lower income individuals.
The industry, however, has continued to grow, Sarkis said, adding he is hoping large-scale cannabis production doesn’t take away from its grass-roots beginnings.
“Despite the challenges, the cannabis industry has survived,” he said.
The Office of Cannabis Management will begin accepting applications for Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary on Aug. 25, the state agency announced this week.
Applicants will be able to access the application portal for a CAURD license on New York State Business Express beginning on that date. The application window will close on Sept. 26.
CAURD is a key pillar of the New York state Seeding Opportunity Initiative.
Through the Initiative, New York’s first legal adult-use retail dispensaries will be operated by those most impacted by the enforcement of the prohibition of cannabis, who will make the first sales of adult-use cannabis in New York with products grown by New York farmers.
To be eligible for these licenses you can choose to apply under the qualifying business track or qualifying nonprofit track.
Prospective Qualifying Business applicants must:
Have a marijuana-related offense conviction that occurred prior to the passage of the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act on March 31, or have had a parent, legal guardian, child, spouse or dependent with a pre-MRTA marijuana related offense conviction in the state of New York, and
Have experience owning and operating a qualifying business.
Applicants are encouraged to start preparing their documentation for their applications before the portal opens and the Office of Cannabis Management has published an interactive resource page to help.
“In just two weeks my team will start accepting applications for adult-use retail cannabis dispensaries,” said Chris Alexander, executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management in a statement. This is a monumental step in establishing the most equitable, diverse and accessible cannabis industry in the nation.”
With the passage of the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act in March, employers in upstate New York may no longer make a job offer contingent upon a negative test for marijuana in many cases.
That’s because pursuant to the Act and New York State labor laws, employers can’t take adverse employment action against an employee or potential employee based on their legal usage of a lawful substance such as marijuana.
“MRTA does not prohibit employers from testing for cannabis, but for a lot of employers the question is, why do it if you can’t take adverse action based on recreational use?” says Saratoga Springs-based Harris Beach, PLLC partner Douglas Gerhardt.
A lot of employers aren’t testing for cannabis anymore. Employers don’t want to put themselves in a situation in which they could potentially violate the law, explains Woods Oviatt Gilman attorney Jason Klimek.
New York City employers stopped testing applicants for marijuana in 2020. Medical marijuana users have had employment discrimination protection since it was passed in New York in 2014.
As a result of legalization, employers should be revising their existing policies to comply with the new cannabis law, attorney Kevin Mulvehill of Phillips Lytle LLP recommends.
“At this point, it’s advisable not to test for marijuana in the pre employment stage,” he says.
Finding enough employees is hard enough in many job areas today. Excluding people who test positive for marijuana makes it even tougher.
One of the nation’s largest employers, Amazon, stopped testing applicants for marijuana recently citing the national labor shortage in their decision.
“You can fill a lot more open jobs if you don’t test for marijuana. Excluding those who test positive isn’t beneficial,” Mulvehill explains.
Testing applicants and employees for marijuana after legalization
But, there are exceptions, and some are included in the law that made recreational marijuana use legal in New York.
The biggest exception is for anyone working for a federal agency or for an employer who receives federal funding. In that case, employment can be denied pursuant to the federal Drug Free Workplace Act.
But for the average private small employer not reliant on federal funds or subject to federal regulation, they can’t use a marijuana drug test to keep from hiring someone, explains Klimek.
What they can do, as before, is to conduct pre employment testing for other drugs such as cocaine and heroin. The utility of a pre-employment urine test for marijuana is diminished, however, since employers can’t take adverse action.
If an employee uses marijuana on the job, shows signs of impairment on the job, is unable to perform their job or is involved in a workplace accident, a positive test for marijuana could still be used as a variable in a dismissal action.
Short of dismissal, employers should consider offering employees drug program assistance and counseling to help them overcome addiction. Employers may also want to consider moving an employee to an area they may be more productive or effective in.
Documentation of an employee that relies on more than a positive test for marijuana is necessary. It’s advisable to have more than a positive for marijuana test as the basis for dismissal for impairment on the job especially since THC can be detectable in the body for six weeks.
In the post-legalization era, employers should treat employee marijuana use like alcohol, Klimek advises, which is to allow employees to do what they want outside of work as long as it doesn’t affect their performance while at work.
Unlike a blood alcohol content test, however, there is no specific amount of THC to define marijuana impairment in New York at the present time. Nor is there a scientific consensus, Klimek says.
“A heavy smoker may not necessarily be impaired while someone who doesn’t smoke regularly might be impaired with just a low level of THC,” he says.
Adds Gerhardt: “There’s no distinction of how much THC constitutes impairment, a little or a lot,” who used the example of Elaine failing a drug test based on her consumption of a poppy seed bagel on “Seinfeld” as an example of the difficulty of relying on marijuana testing.
While there is clearly more employment protection in New York state today for marijuana users, it is still an at will employment state in which employees can be fired for almost any reason as long as it’s not discriminatory.
All the more reason not to conduct marijuana testing since an employee could claim the test was a discriminatory reason for dismissal, attorneys say
The need for guidance and clarification
Attorneys say clients are actively seeking clarification of testing issues since recreational marijuana became legal on March 31, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office has been strangely silent on clarification and has yet to establish a cannabis control board that is supposed to provide more specific guidance than the bill provides.
“Nothing has changed since the day the bill was enacted. We’re still waiting for the regulators to be appointed to shed more light on the uncertainties,” says Klimek. “We’re very behind on this and waiting to see what happens next.”
“I would like to think that the control board will provide clarification. We need that,” Gerhardt says. He also notes that other states that have legalized marijuana are ahead of New York in sorting out the particulars and could be used as a model.
He doesn’t see the clarification New York needs coming from the federal government in the near future, although it gets more and more attention from congressmen in proposed bills.
Once the control board sorts the ambiguities out, Gerhardt would like to see employers and their advisors put together an employer policy handbook that would guide them in conducting an effective identification and investigation of reasonable suspicion and erratic employee behavior that isn’t based solely on a positive for marijuana test.
“I recommend that employers make it clear they are looking for a safe and effective work environment and that the scope of that policy applies to everyone,” he says.
Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce was pleased to recently partner with Flower City Solutions to plan and host “CannaBusiness: Capitalizing on the Cannabis Economy,” an event that opened a community conversation on the emerging marijuana and hemp industries. While Rochester Chamber has not taken a position, we felt that now is the time to have these discussions with stakeholders representing many sides of the issue as the New York State Legislature considers the legalization of adult-use recreational marijuana.
CannaBusiness keynote speakers included New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who discussed the potential community impact of legalized marijuana; Consulate General of Canada in New York Deputy Consul General Khawar Nasim, who covered his country’s exploration of health and safety while making the decision to legalize cannabis nationwide; and Constellation Brands EVP and General Counsel Jim Bourdeau, who shared the business potential of cannabis. Constellation Brands, a leading global beverage alcohol producer, is exploring cannabis-infused products with its recent investment in Canadian cannabis producer Canopy.
Panel discussions at CannaBusiness included experts in legalization, regulation and compliance; social justice and law enforcement; business, innovation and AgTech; and health and medicine.
Rochester Chamber feels a sense of responsibility to engage thought leaders on issues such as this that have wide-ranging potential economic benefits, as well negative impacts and unintended consequences. The issue of hemp and marijuana legalization is certainly not without controversy, and that is exactly why we felt compelled to bring together many voices for this discussion. I attended a gathering of government and business leaders in the early 1990s where a prominent, hall of fame, Rochester businessperson commented that New York State should legalize marijuana, regulate it and tax it. Many in attendance chuckled at the thought, but those words are now prophetic more than two decades later.
Both houses of the New York State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are having intense conversations on legalizing marijuana. While I have no inside information on the topic, I can say that one of our CannaBusiness panelists, Axel Bernabe, counsel to Gov. Cuomo, had an excellent depth of knowledge on the topic. It is clear that Albany is doing its homework to get this right when it happens. I do believe that legalized marijuana in New York is a when, not an if. Bernabe said that once any legislation passes, it would likely be 18 months before any clear, specific and tough regulations are implemented. My sense is that it will be a strict process where dispensaries or stores will be licensed by the state to sell cannabis products and then closely monitored.
Our CannaBusiness law enforcement and social justice panelists had very disparate views at the beginning, but the sides came together as they listened to and respected one another’s concerns. From my career in law enforcement, I am acutely aware that the drug trade fuels violence in our neighborhoods by way of competition and turf wars. Legalization may be an avenue to remove some of that underground economy and its related issues. The social justice side was concerned about expunging criminal records of certain marijuana-related offenses and reinforcing the data that shows communities of color are more impacted by marijuana arrests and convictions. When marijuana is legalized, we must look at creating a greater sense of equity and opportunity for these communities, which have been most affected in the past.
Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes commented that we must explore economic opportunities for those involved in the illegal trade as part of legalization. I can say from personal experience that a young drug dealer on the street corner likely does not have the skills to run a highly regulated business. We should think through ways to bring workforce development and training to those underserved communities to find success.
The CannaBusiness health and medicine panel was fascinating because it put forth different views from a group of medical professionals. Some were against legalization, while others touted its potential benefits. The most compelling issue that arose from that panel is the lack of research that the medical community can do on marijuana. This is mainly related to the fear of institutions losing federal funding because cannabis is illegal federally. The legalization of marijuana in New York State may be able to crack open that research door in some way.
On the business end, New York State is a jewel of agriculture ready to take on the challenge of increased demand of both recreational marijuana and CBD oil. I’m not sure if it’s a miracle cure or snake oil, but CBD is an $875 million market in the United States and is projected to grow into $25 billion over the next five years. We must have these discussions now in order to take advantage of innovation in this field and the economic benefits it can bring. Rochester Chamber is passionately supportive of helping businesses start and grow here. Cannabis can be the next driver in our economic evolution.
I was overwhelmed by the positive responses that Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce received from all levels related to our CannaBusiness event. We had to have this conversation, which came at the most opportune moment as the state deliberates the fate of legalized marijuana. The opinions expressed at CannaBusiness will play a role in the final decision, as several lawmakers and representatives of the governor’s office attended the event to learn more.
Again, Rochester Chamber is pleased to be a convener of many sides of this issue and we expect this community conversation to continue at future events. We are in the midst of great change in New York state. We can’t bury our heads and ignore this issue. The most important thing we can do is to have these critical discussions now, so the state enacts the best policy possible.
Robert J. Duffy is president and CEO of Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at [email protected].
Former Erie County executive and gubernatorial hopeful Joel Giambra has hedged his bets on marijuana reform cinching him the election, and he now has the numbers to back up his plans.
An independent vying for the Reform Party ballot, Giambra announced the results of a study he commissioned on the economic benefits of marijuana legalization. At a 13 percent excise tax, Giambra places a conservative estimate of $500 million per year, with a possibility of funding $12.2 billion in state bonding over the course of five years. It’s not too far-fetched: marijuana brought in $247.4 million in tax revenue for Colorado in 2017, at a tax of 10 percent. Colorado has a population of 5.6 million, while New York has a population of 19.85 million, and assuming both populations buy cannabis at equal rates, the resulting revenue could be substantially higher than Giambra’s projection.
“Nine other states have taken this step and medical marijuana is legal in 29 states,” Giambra said, in a statement. “Other states are poised to take action and according to Arcview Market Research, one of the top market research firms for the cannabis industry, legal marijuana sales were expected to hit $9.7 billion in North America in 2017. We need to take marijuana off the black market and cultivate an entrepreneurial economy in New York State instead of crushing our citizens with more onerous taxes to feed the Albany political pipeline.”
As part of removing cannabis from the black market, Giambra promised to expunge the records of all non-violent offenders jailed on marijuana chargers. Meanwhile, the majority of revenue brought in by the marijuana tax would go towards improving infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
“This is a plan to rebuild New York without continuing to raise taxes,” Giambra said. “There’s another billion dollars in taxes and fees already projected in the Albany pipeline this year to deal with a deficit estimated of at least $4.4 billion. I think the citizens have had enough. Let’s take marijuana off the black market, like other states have, and begin to phase in that new revenue stream and put that money to work for the people of New York.”
The 2018 New York gubernatorial election places incumbent Andrew Cuomo against former state senator Terry Gipson for the Democratic ballot while Deputy Majority Leader for the State Senate John DeFrancisco, former commissioner for the New York Department of Housing and community renewal Joe Holland and Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro vie for the Republican ticket.
In January, Cuomo proposed a similar study to better grasp the economic, crime, social and health impacts of marijuana legalization. The study, as well as the assembling of a panel made up of healthcare, law enforcement and economic experts, has yet to be seen.
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