New York City Cannabis and Community Boards

New York City community boards will soon become a hot topic as New York begins accepting adult-use retail dispensary and on-site consumption license applications. If you have done any reading on New York’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) (such as here or here), you’ll have seen references to community boards. But with community boards being a very New York City-centric concept and their significant role in the adult-use cannabis licensing process, we figured it was time for an good old fashioned FAQ.

What is a Community Board?

We can’t explain it better than New York City’s government website:

Community boards are local representative bodies. There are 59 community boards throughout the City, and each one consists of up to 50 unsalaried members, half of whom are nominated by their district’s City Council members. Board members are selected and appointed by the Borough Presidents from among active, involved people of each community and must reside, work, or have some other significant interest in the community.

Each community board is led by a District Manager who establishes an office, hires staff, and implements procedures to improve the delivery of City services to the district. While the main responsibility of the board office is to receive complaints from community residents, they also maintain other duties, such as processing permits for block parties and street fairs. Many boards choose to provide additional services and manage special projects that cater to specific community needs, including organizing tenants associations, coordinating neighborhood cleanup programs, and more.

Can I look up the Community Board for a specific New York address?

Yes, by searching your address on this website:

How are Community Boards Involved in New York’s Adult-Use Cannabis Licensing Process?

MRTA requires applicants for retail dispensary or on-site consumption licenses to submit a notice of intent to apply to the community board in which they intend to operate. The notice must be sent at least 30 days but not more than 270 days before filing an application with the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM).

The community board is entitled (but not required) to issue an opinion for or against granting the license. If the community board expresses an opinion, the opinion becomes a part of the record upon which the OCM makes its recommendation to the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) whether to grant or deny the application. THEN, the CCB is required to respond to the community board with “an explanation of how such opinion was considered in the granting or denial of an application.”

Do I need Community Board approval to obtain a New York cannabis license?

As indicated in the previous answer, the MRTA does not include an express requirement that the applicable community board endorse an application in order to issue a license. With that said, given the general sensitivity to community opinions regarding cannabis, it’s fair to assume that any community board opinions will be given significant consideration.

Can I present to the Community Board as part of a New York cannabis license application?

Yes. From that handy website again:

Anyone can attend a community board meeting! Board meetings occur once a month and are open to the public. At these meetings, members address items of concern to the community and hear from attendees. Boards regularly conduct additional public hearings – on the City’s budget, land use matters, etc. – to give community members the opportunity to express their opinions and concerns.

Can I appeal a Community Board decision?

Yes, there is an administrative appeal process for community board decisions. But it may also be more advantageous to appeal an overall denial of an application to the CCB and to utilize the appeal mechanism in MRTA (which will be the subject of a later post).

Clearly, there is a lot of ground to cover. As we have said again and again, familiarity with the real estate process in New York will be critical for adult-use cannabis applicants. Stay tuned to the Canna Law Blog for more updates on New York cannabis licensing!

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Licensing, New York