First Crop of Cannabis Licenses Set to Go to Those With Previous Pot Convictions in NY
ALBANY, N.Y. — State regulators in New York have mandated that the first batch of licenses to sellers in the state’s soon-to-be budding cannabis retail sales sector go to business owners with previous pot convictions.
New York became the 15th state to legalize recreational marijuana when former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law on March 31, 2021.
According to Business Insider, recreational marijuana sales could be worth a potential $7 billion once in full force.
New York state now has an Office of Cannabis Management, which according to its website, is dedicated to ensuring social justice, public health and safety, and economic development. They are completing this mission through a framework centralizing licensing, enforcement and economic development functions.
In the “cannabis conversations” portion of the OCM’s website, they lay out the legality of cannabis usage in New York.
“Businesses must have an adult-use license to legally sell cannabis in New York and adult-use retail dispensaries can lose their license for selling cannabis to anyone underage and/or face significant fines and penalties,” according to the OCM.
On Thursday, the OCM had a Cannabis Control Board meeting discussing the Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary Regulations, explaining the initiative and social justice CARD hopes to achieve.
“New York is putting social equity in small farmers at the heart of its cannabis industry … and this really drives that to its logical extension in completing the supply chain by having retailers that can now sell the products that are being grown right now as we speak throughout the state of New York,” Axel Bernabe, chief of staff and senior policy director at the OCM, said at the board meeting on Thursday.
Last month, a minority-led investment team was “chosen to manage a $200 million fund to support social equity in the cannabis industry,” according to the New York state governor’s website.
According to Bernabe, CARD applicants must meet two baseline eligibility requirements in order to be awarded a license.
“First, they must have a cannabis-related offense that occurred prior to the passage of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act that was signed into law on March 31, 2021, or they had a parent, guardian, a child or a spouse, or a dependent with a cannabis offense that also occurred pre the passage of the law in March,” Bernabe said in the meeting.
“The second criteria is that they have experience owning and operating a qualifying business,” he continued.
The OCM had a 60-day public comment period regarding the CARD regulations where they received and read approximately 600 different comments, which they have incorporated into their regulations since.
“The commentators also expressed support for aspects of the proposed regulations which they believed would maximize undoing the past harms that were caused by the enforcements of cannabis prohibition over the last 30 years in particular,” Bernabe said during the meeting.
These applications will go live sometime in the next month with the promise of being fully online and straightforward. There is a sample application currently online for those interested in a preview.
“This is a tremendous drive in the right direction. We are definitely rolling out equity, we’re leading with equity here in this state,” Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright said during the board meeting.
Republican state Sen. George Borrello, who represents Chautauqua County, was upset when the rules were originally proposed in March.
“From day one, I have expressed concern about New York state’s intention to prioritize recreational marijuana licenses for those with drug-related criminal convictions. Now comes the news that the state will actually be the financial backer for many of these social equity applicants, through a $200 million fund that will be included in this year’s budget,” Borrello stated in March.
“Those with drug convictions are not only going to the front of the line, they are going to receive start-up money, courtesy of state taxpayers. While supporters of the plan argue that … is reparation for unjust marijuana convictions, the reality is that most of these individuals’ jail time involved sale and/or possession of harder drugs, in addition to marijuana,” he continued.
“The idea that we can turn career criminals into upstanding business people by giving them taxpayer-funded dispensaries in an all-cash industry is utter madness. In the end, New York’s taxpayers will be the collateral damage in this scheme,” he added later.
New York’s Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, who took former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s position when he resigned last August, is proud of the work that the Cannabis Control Board has done over the last few months.
In March, Hochul said, “New York state is making history, launching a first-of-its-kind approach to the cannabis industry that takes a major step forward in righting the wrongs of the past.
“The regulations advanced by the Cannabis Control Board today will prioritize local farmers and entrepreneurs, creating jobs and opportunity for communities that have been left out and left behind. I’m proud New York will be a national model for the safe, equitable and inclusive industry we are now building.”
Natalie can be reached at [email protected]