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First New York Marijuana Licenses Will Go To Cannabis Convicts

State officials hope the social equity program helps redress decades of racially imbalanced enforcement of the pot laws

Yahoo! Finance

The first licenses to sell adult-use marijuana in New York will go to Drug War casualties, reports the Associated Press. New rules limit eligibility for the first 100-200 dispensary licenses to persons convicted on Cannabis offenses, reports the New York Post.

Licenses could actually be in the future for some illegal marijuana dealers. Anyone ever convicted for weed, could, after all, be considered an equity applicant. These applicants are known as ”legacy candidates” for licensing.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, announced the planned regulations for “social equity” applicants Thursday, reports The New York Times. State officials hope the program will help redress decades of inequitable enforcement of the pot laws.

New York wants to avoid pitfalls encountered in some other states, which have seen designated “social equity” applicants and other mom-and-pop marijuana businesses struggle with issues like lack of capital. They also face formidable competition from deep-pocketed corporate operations, known colloquially as “Big Pot.”

“Justice Involved”

“If the applicant is an individual, or an entity with one or more individuals, at least one individual must be justice involved,” according to the document. Applicants must also demonstrate experience having run a successful business, reports New York 1.

Nonprofit organizations serving individuals with past marijuana convictions will also be eligible. This includes nonprofits which create jobs for returned pot convicts, including board positions and executive leadership.

“Justice involved” means anyone convicted of a pot-related charge, “had a parent, legal guardian, child, spouse, or dependent who was convicted,” or “was a dependent of an individual who was convicted of a [marijuana]-related offense,” according to the draft rules.

“Look, You Guys Get To Go First”

“What New York is doing is actually giving people with criminal justice histories first-mover advantage,” said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

State officials “are really saying look, you guys get to go first. You get to go before everybody else,” Frederique said.

”Because that’s actually what’s going to get us closer to fairness and equity. And I think that’s really exciting.”

$200 Million Fund To Help New York Licensees Launch

In addition to prioritizing those with convictions, the state will create a $200 million fund to help licensees launch. The state assistance available includes help securing retail space.

The $200 million fund, included in Governor Hochul’s executive budget proposal, has support from key lawmakers.

The resulting social equity dispensaries will be the first to open in the state by the end of the year. That’s the plan, at least, according to Chris Alexander, executive director of the Office of Cannabis Mangement. Some others may open shortly after, perhaps in early 2023, Alexander said.

New York doesn’t limit the number of retail dispensary licenses. State officials said that will depend on market demand.

The state is also rolling out a licensing process for those who want to grow Cannabis. Heads up: the application period for cultivator licenses opens March 15 and closes June 30.

Republicans Just HATE It

The news of Governor Hochul’s plan predictably drew a thorny response from GOP state Senator Rob Ortt, the minority leader. Ortt criticized the Democrats who control state government for handing out “hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to those who have broken the law.”

“This is just another reminder that Albany is out of touch with the needs of law-abiding New Yorkers, who pay their taxes, and do the right thing,” Ortt impotently sputtered in a goody two-shoes statement.

Alexander, though, dismissed criticism over the decision to favor those with prior criminal records. He said the New York Legislature made clear its intentions in passing the law last year. Alexander pointed out that the state regularly funds economic development in a range of legal industries.

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