NEW YORK (AP) — New York’s marijuana agency is working toward a swift launch for a proposed $200 million fund to help people of color, women and certain other groups start legal pot businesses, an official said Thursday.

Regulators and lawmakers are discussing the plan as New York looks ahead to licensing recreational marijuana businesses in roughly the next year. Potentially the largest such fund in any state to date, it could provide grants and loans to what are known as social equity applicants.

Advocates for diversifying the pot industry say the state needs to ensure that eligible entrepreneurs can get money in early stages — just securing a license has proven costly in some other states — and that they can open quickly enough to compete with bigger players.

Cannabis Control Board member Reuben McDaniel III told his colleagues Thursday that officials are working out technical details “to make sure that we can implement this program really quickly” if it goes forward.

The plan envisions using $50 million in state money, tapping private investors and having the state Dormitory Authority use its construction experience to help eligible businesses find locations, negotiate leases and figure out what they need to build.

“All this is designed to make sure our social equity applicants are among the first who can get adult-use cannabis (shops) open,” said McDaniel, who is also the Dormitory Authority’s president.

New York’s marijuana legalization law defines social equity businesses as those owned by women or minorities, struggling farmers, disabled veterans and people from communities that endured heavy pot policing.


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