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New York dispensaries can now sell cannabis flower, but who’s got it in stock?

New York State’s Cannabis Control Board voted yesterday to allow the sale of cannabis flower in all medical marijuana dispensaries. The change takes effect immediately. 

Yes, it’s legal to sell flower now. But only to patients. And it’s not on the shelf yet.

That’s breakthrough news in New York, where 150,000 patients had previously been limited to non-flower products like tinctures and edibles. Those modalities work for many patients, but the delay of onset is a problem for some. The effects of cannabis flower, absorbed as smoke or vapor through the lungs, are felt almost immediately. 

The Cannabis Control Board also voted to double each patient’s purchase limit—from a 30-day supply to a 60-day supply—and to eliminate the $50 registration fee. 

Got flower for sale?

The news caught many dispensaries by surprise, as frontline staff members found themselves suddenly fielding calls from patients asking for state-licensed bud. Calls to a number of dispensaries on Wednesday afternoon indicated that it could be days or weeks before licensed flower is actually on the shelves.

At Etain, MedMen, Be, and other state-licensed dispensaries, queries came back with pretty much the same answer: Yes, it’s legal to sell flower now and no, we don’t yet have it in stock. Also: Dispensaries are still only serving state-registered medical patients. Adult-use sales are not yet legal. (There seems to be some confusion about that, with consumers reading the “legal to sell flower” message as a signal that recreational cannabis sales have started. They have not.)

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A number of New York dispensary officials told Leafly they expect cannabis flower sales to start—again, to registered patients only—in four to six weeks.

Patrik Jonsson, regional president of Curaleaf, said his company had begun submitting cannabis flower for regulatory review and testing. “Testing and approval typically takes three weeks,” Johnsson said. “We expect to start selling Curaleaf whole flower in early November.”

Related
Here’s How to Get a New York Medical Marijuana Card

Little information from state regulators

This seems to be a case where news of the policy change is outpacing the actual implementation of the policy. Thousands of registered patients read about the Board’s decision in the New York Daily News, the Buffalo News, and other outlets—but dispensaries received no information from the Cannabis Control Board about how to actually implement the change. As of Wednesday afternoon, there was no information about the change on the state’s medical marijuana web site.

There are a number of questions that remain unanswered, including how dispensaries are expected to sell flower. Some states have allowed dispensaries to keep fresh bud in jars (which allow patients to see and smell the product), while other states allow flower to be sold only in tightly sealed packaging.

Why delay the sale of flower anyway?

The prohibition of cannabis flower in medical states has long been a point of contention between policy makers and medical advocates. In states like Florida and New York, medical programs started out as non-flower programs, largely because legislators were uncomfortable with the idea of cannabis bud as a legitimate medicine. Putting cannabinoid products into more traditional containers like tincture bottles was often seen as a reasonable compromise. 

New York is following a path that Florida established, allowing flower years after first opening dispensaries without it. The effect in Florida was massive—the state saw a boom in medical marijuana patient applications and an immediate uptick in sales statewide. 

Change expected to ramp up purchasing

This week’s triple-whammy in New York—allowing the sale of flower, doubling the allowed purchase amount, and eliminating the $50 fee—could do the same for the medical market in the Empire State. With a population of nearly 20 million but only 150,000 patients, New York has one of the lowest per-capita medical marijuana patient rates in the nation. Florida, with a population of 22 million, has nearly 600,000 registered medical marijuana patients.

Leafly will continue to look into the situation in New York and update this story throughout the day. There’s a lot of confusion in dispensaries about this right now, as state regulators haven’t been exactly forthcoming about the new rules regarding flower sales, so please keep that in mind if you contact your local outlet. The folks there are doing the best they can with limited information.

Bruce Barcott and Calvin Stovall's Bio Image
Bruce Barcott and Calvin Stovall

Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.

Calvin Stovall is Leafly's East Coast Editor. He writes and produces media in Atlanta, GA and runs day-to-day operations for The Artistic Unified Exchange, a nonprofit that protects intellectual property on behalf of independent artists and underserved communities.

View Bruce Barcott and Calvin Stovall's articles