How New York’s New Marijuana Law Sows Seeds Of Fairness
Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday signed a law legalizing recreational marijuana in New York City – incorporating an ambitious social justice plan to give populations targeted by endless drug wars a potentially lucrative slice of the action.
The historic law, the culmination of long and fierce negotiations in Albany, will allow people to own up to three ounces of jars and grow a limited amount of cannabis at home. The measure will also erase the convictions of people whose offenses would not have been crimes under the new law.
But the centerpiece of the law is a set of social fairness provisions that are expected to pay 40% of tax revenues from legal herb sales into communities long devastated by over-policing and provide marijuana business opportunities for groups. traditionally under-represented.
New York, which has become the 15th state to fully legalize recreational marijuana, hopes to succeed where some others failed bringing fairness to the industry – even if a new Cannabis Management Office and Cannabis Control Board carries a whiff of bureaucracy.
Here is a guide to attempting fairness in the law:
Who qualifies as a “social equity seeker”?
The Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act (MRTA) sets a goal of giving half of all sales licenses to those who qualify as “social equity seekers.”
- Women-owned businesses
- Businesses owned by people of color
- Minority or female-owned business enterprises, defined as a business in which women and / or people of color own at least 51% of the business
- Smallholder farmers in financial difficulty or farms operated by someone from an under-represented demographic group
- Disabled veterans
- People from areas negatively affected by past cannabis prohibition
Applicants who match one or more of these categories will be given additional priority if they:
- Make 80% or less of their county’s median income. In the case of New York City, 80% of median income is $ 63,680.
- Come from an area disproportionately affected by past enforcement of cannabis laws
- Were convicted of a marijuana-related offense before the bill was enacted
What services will be offered to candidates for social equity?
New York State’s Urban Development Corporation will receive additional funding to provide assistance to social equity applicants, including establishing a small business incubator that will distribute low-interest, interest-free loans to help pay for start-up costs.
“It’s the big missing piece of the puzzle that we haven’t seen in other states,” said Melissa Moore, director of the Drug Policy Alliance in New York.
“You can get priority licenses for social equity, but if there is no possibility for people to access capital, it becomes a moot point due to the federal ban, it is to little near impossible for people to access the normal type of small business loans. which would generally be available, ”she added.
Nathaniel Gurien, CEO of a Manhattan-based cannabis consultancy, told THE CITY that the incubator, which will provide financial advice to applicants, is crucial to the success of social equity efforts.
Gurien said the educational component could help everyday New Yorkers who want to use their existing skills to turn to legal pot sales.
“Like in Times Square, you have all these tourist bus hawkers,” Gurien said. “Some of these guys who live in the Bronx and qualify for minority stake licenses, they can get a decent low interest loan from one of these business developments. [agencies] with funds related to cannabis.
How will underserved communities benefit?
The combined tax revenues on cannabis products, which are ultimately expected to bring in $ 350 million per year, will fund the planned Cannabis Management Office and other agencies that have new responsibilities under the law, including the Office of Cannabis Management. administration of courts, state police and the state automobile department. Vehicles.
About 40% of the remaining money will go to the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund. Qualified community organizations and local government agencies can apply for grants to help areas that have been disproportionately affected by federal and state policies regarding marijuana.
In New York, that likely means the next mayor will play a big role in how some of the money is spent.
Approved uses include: job placement and training programs, adult education services, mental health, and the treatment of substance use disorders.
Also on the list: housing, financial literacy, community banking, nutrition services, after-school and childcare services, and legal aid for those formerly incarcerated.
License applicants who present plans that include community benefits and ways to help those affected by the drug wars should also be given additional preference.
Susanna Short, spokesperson for a Massachusetts dispensary called Mayflower, told THE CITY that pushing businesses to do their part to uplift neighborhoods has strengthened community ties. There, Mayflower established community gardens, held skills seminars, and started a scholarship program.
“It’s not about compliance, it’s a real commitment,” said Short.
What type of licenses can eligible applicants apply for?
The MRTA authorizes nine different licenses and permits that pot contractors can optionally apply for:
- Grower’s licenses, for people who want to grow cannabis
- Processing licenses, for people who wish to process cannabis into other products, such as edibles, concentrates and tinctures
- Distribution licenses, for people who wish to distribute wholesale products from processors to licensed retail businesses
- Dispensary licenses, for people who wish to sell cannabis products directly to the public
- On-site consumption licenses, for people who wish to sell marijuana and provide space for customers to use cannabis products
- Cooperative licenses, for groups of people who want to cultivate, cultivate and process cannabis
- Nursery licenses, for people who wish to sell baby marijuana plants that have not yet flowered to other licensed pot companies
- Delivery licenses, for businesses wishing to provide delivery services in addition to their retail services
- Micro-enterprise licenses, for people who wish to cultivate, produce and retail cannabis products with strict size limitations.
How can applicants for social equity apply for a license?
The short answer is we don’t know yet. The law does not specify when the Office of Cannabis Management will open or when members of the Cannabis Control Board – a group of five people chosen by the governor and the state legislature that will oversee the new agency – will be in place.
That being said, marijuana dispensaries could open by April 1, 2022, so Cuomo and the state legislature will have to choose members of the control board over the next few months to get the bureaucracy going.
When will the recordings be deleted?
The act lacks details, and Cuomo’s press office did not respond to questions. But the legislation sets a schedule for deleting records within two years of signing the bill.
The new law is based on a the legislature voted in 2019. It now provides for an expanded expungement of convictions for offenses related to marijuana or concentrated cannabis.
So when can we buy legal pot?
The bill set April 1, 2022, as the first day New Yorkers can purchase recreational weed. And because New York State allows medical marijuana stores to partially integrate into the recreational market, there are already a handful of operations that should be ready at that time.
It became legal to smoke, consume or carry three ounces on Wednesday.