First Marijuana Licenses In New York Will Go To People Previously Convicted Of Marijuana Crimes

The state of New York is planning to grant its first batch of cannabis retail licenses to residents who have had previous marijuana convictions.

This reported “social equity” plan comes from the New York Governor’s Press Office and intends to provide a pathway for cannabis business ownership for people who have been directly impacted by prior convictions in light of the state’s legalization of recreational marijuana, according to the Associated Press.

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the first-in-the-nation Seeding Opportunity Initiative, which will position individuals with prior cannabis-related criminal offenses to make the first adult-use cannabis sales with products grown by New York farmers. This farm-to-store initiative makes sales in New York possible before the end of 2022, jumpstarts New York’s Cannabis Industry, guarantees support for future equity applicants, and secures an early investment into communities most impacted by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition.   

“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,” Governor Hochul said. “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 Cannabis Control Board at its meeting Thursday advanced two components of the Seeding Opportunity Initiative.  

First, it advanced to public comment regulations for Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries. As part of the Seeding Opportunity Initiative, this subset of dispensaries must be owned by equity-entrepreneurs with a prior cannabis-related criminal offense who also have a background owning and operating a small business. They will be the first to open and make sales in New York State, establishing equity-owned businesses at the front-end of New York’s adult-use market.  

Second, the Board approved a license application for hemp farmers seeking to grow adult-use cannabis this spring – called the Adult-Use Conditional Cultivator License. The license was made possible by legislation Governor Hochul signed last month. The Board designated March 15 as the opening date for the application portal.  

Those applicants or their family members will be eligible for the first 100-200 licenses awarded by the state. It’s part of an effort to make sure early business owners will be people who have been affected by the nation’s war on drugs.

A spokesperson for the New York State Office of Cannabis Management – which relates all things dealing with the drug in New York – informs Black Westchester that the initial cannabis dispensary license fee is $2,000.

In a five-page cannabis management fact sheet, the control board notes the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2021 led to the passing of the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA), which has a “major focus” in promoting “social and economic equity.”

The fact sheet’s overview states, “The MRTA incentivizes participation in the new industry for individuals disproportionally impacted by cannabis prohibition, automatically expunges an individual’s past marijuana convictions, and invests 40% of the adult use cannabis tax revenue toward rebuilding communities harmed by the War on Drugs.” 

Cannabis dispensary license applicants will reportedly receive “extra priority” if they demonstrate they’re a member of a community that was disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of marijuana prohibition, which includes individuals convicted of a marijuana offense before its legalization on March 31, 2021, and the relatives of convicted individuals (parents, guardians, children, spouses and dependents).

The MRTA shall “prioritize and provide resources” to other groups that face barriers of entry into the state’s new cannabis industry.

Minority- and women-owned businesses, distressed farmers and service-disabled veterans will be encouraged to participate, according to the cannabis management fact sheet.