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Friday, May 20, 2022
Mugglehead Magazine
Alternative investment news based in Vancouver, B.C.


New York says first pot retail licences should go to people with cannabis convictions

The state’s Cannabis Control Board voted unanimously Thursday to advance the regulations

New York proposes first pot retail licences go to people with cannabis convictions
Photo by Dietmar Rabich via Wikimedia Commons

The first round of retail cannabis licences in New York is set to go to folks with pot-related convictions to help build the state’s recreational market — if the regulator’s proposal goes forward.

The state’s Office of Cannabis Management released proposed regulations for the retail market on Wednesday, reserving licences for people who’ve been convicted of cannabis crimes in the state of New York before March 31, 2021, when New York’s adult-use laws took effect.

This also applies to people whose parent, legal guardian, child, spouse or dependent was convicted of a cannabis-related offence.

The New York State Cannabis Control Board unanimously voted to advance the regulations on Thursday.

Draft regulations will be published and available for public comment for 60 days.

NY Cannabis Control Meeting screenshot

Screenshot by Kathryn Tindale

Other states have implemented social-equity provisions in their cannabis regulations to redress harm caused by the criminalization of cannabis, which has disproportionally targeted communities of colour.

Read more: New York to expedite adult-use cannabis production 

“It is encouraging to see that New York regulators are attempting to innovate by building adult-use implementation around the people who should benefit the most,” says Kassandra Frederique, executive director at Drug Policy Alliance. “The scale of damage in New York is so vast that [the state] must now be intentional about comprehensively addressing the massive toll of criminalization for individuals and communities — priority licensing is one avenue to do that.”

She notes that low-level cannabis possession is the most arrested drug offence in the U.S., and that New York was the “marijuana arrest capitol” of the country, with more than 800,000 arrests. Most of the enforcement targeted Black and Latinx people, who accounted for nearly 90 per cent of cannabis arrests despite similar usage rates to white people.

“Marijuana legalization must repair these harms: If you were the first to get to hurt, you should be the first to benefit,” Frederique adds in a statement.

Gov. Kathy Hochul was expected to make the announcement about the conditional licences Thursday, as first reported by the New York Times.

“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,” Hochul says in a statement. “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.”

The Times report includes comments from Chris Alexander, executive director of New York’s Office of Cannabis Management, saying he expects between 100 and 200 licences will be given to those convicted of pot-related offences before cannabis was legalized.

Those will be the first cannabis stores to open, perhaps by the end of the year, he adds.

On Thursday, Alexander said those receiving licences initially have cannabis convictions and are also small business owners.

“We’re starting our industry here with those existing small business owners who we believe can translate those skills to building out New York’s cannabis industry,” he said during a press conference.

While New York’s cannabis law allows retail sales to start this year, the regulations are still being developed. Earlier reports suggested licences wouldn’t be issued until 2023.

Meanwhile, Hochul’s government has also proposed a US$200-million fund to support marginalized applicants in starting cannabis businesses.

“While New York has committed to making its cannabis industry more equitable, this action will put that commitment into practice. New York will lead where many other states have fallen short,” reads the document.

Read more: New York’s governor to create US$200M fund for cannabis equity applicants

Read more: New York allows medical pot for any condition at doctors’ discretion


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