It took a while, but marijuana dispensaries will soon be seen all over New York State. 

What makes this announcement unique is that the New York State Cannabis Management Office said the first 100 retail licenses will go to those who were arrested for marijuana-related offenses and/or a marijuana-related arrest that impacted their families.

Landon Dais, Esq., cannabis attorney at Forchelli Deegan Terrana and cannabis consultant, said that this shows that New York is ahead of the curve in making sure those hurt by marijuana possessing will now be helped by possessing marijuana.

“This move is a significant signal that NY State CMO, under the leadership of Board Chair Tremaine Wright and Executive Director Chris Alexander, is taking a serious approach towards equity in New York’s marijuana market. Additionally, it is a signal to ‘big cannabis’ that the NY market will favor small businesses,” said Dais. “It is clear Gov. Hochul and Lt. Gov Benjamin support that New York State is the first state to implement a vibrant and impactful social equity program successfully. No state has been able to launch a viable social equity program to this date, but New York will hopefully be the first.”

And the State Senate made sure to make marijuana reform a part of its agenda.

On Monday, the New York Senate Majority released its budget resolution. The one-state house proposal included “allocating $2.5 million for the Cannabis Workforce Initiative to offer training and education in the cannabis industry.” The recently released New York State Assembly’s SFY 2022-’23 budget includes $50 million for the Cannabis Management Program and will assist those socially and economically disadvantaged with establishing dispensaries.

According to COVA, a company with compliant cannabis software that streamlines dispensary management, “The average up-front investment to open a dispensary in California is between $80,000 and $250,000. Ongoing operating expenses will cost you between $30,000 and $70,000 each month.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams appreciates that those who were pushed to the back of the line are now being pushed to the front of the line.

“I don’t recall one corporate executive being stopped on Tremont Avenue and have someone going through their pocket and pulling out a joint, and then locking them up,” said Adams to reporters recently.  “So they were not front in line in the perp walk, they should not be front in line and benefiting from the cannabis industry. It needs to go back in the communities that were hurt the hardest, and that is what we need to focus on.”

One person that will focus on those things is Manhattan County Leader and Director of Strategic Planning for Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LL’s Government Relations group Keith Wright. Wright said that his firm has a few clients who want to open dispensaries. He emphasized that no one would or should be left out of the green gold rush.

“Simply, all those former roadblocks in terms of contracting and procurement with the state of New York should be erased,” said Wright. “Because if you have a company of color, they’re supposed to be given, you know, a leg up with, you know, their courage to apply for a license. That’s my understanding of the legislation.”

Wright did warn that there must be some rules established with marijuana in other ways.

“It should impact affirmatively on an economic level in terms of economic development, and entrepreneurship. I think we have to be careful in terms of how it impacts in terms of our kids,” Wright said. “We don’t want kids walking into a smoke shop and say, you know, ‘I want five joints and a quarter pound’…I think this is like the Wild West and we have to be very, very careful. But ultimately—on an economic level—hopefully it will improve communities of color.”

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