New York regulators are set to approve a rule making it so people with prior marijuana convictions, or whose family members have been harmed by criminalization, will get the first round of adult-use marijuana retailer licenses—ahead of existing medical cannabis businesses.
The proposal to create the conditional licenses will be taken up by the New York State Cannabis Control Board (CCB) on Thursday. It’s a move that would set the state apart from others that have enacted legalization but faced criticism over a lack of promised equity results.
Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) is expected to announce the plan on Thursday, as first reported by The New York Times. Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) Executive Director Chris Alexander told the newspaper that he expects upwards of 200 “justice involved” applicants to receive the priority licenses under the proposal, with retailers potentially coming online by the year’s end.
To qualify for the conditional license, an applicant would need to have been convicted of a cannabis-related offense prior to March 31, 2021, when the state’s adult-use legalization law was enacted. Those who have a “parent, legal guardian, child, spouse, or dependent” who faced such convictions would also be eligible, as would those who were themselves dependent on someone with a conviction.
There are some business-related requirements in order for eligible applicants. For example, the measure states that they must “hold or have held, for a minimum of two years, at least ten percent ownership interest in, and control of, a qualifying business, which means a business that had net profit for at least two of the years the business was in operation.”
Non-profit organizations could also be eligible to hold the licenses if they “intentionally serve justice involved individuals and communities with historically high rates of arrest, conviction, incarceration or other indicators of law enforcement activity for marihuana-related offenses.”
Existing medical marijuana operators, called “registered organizations” under the state’s cannabis code, would generally not be able to obtain the proposed conditional licenses. This seems to be part of the state’s overall goal of ensuring that the industry that emerges is equitable and not dominated by monied multi-state operators.
“I could press the green button right now and have 40 dispensaries online,” Alexander said, referencing the existing medical marijuana retailers operating in the state. “But instead we’ve decided that the folks who have been most impacted actually have the space and the real runway to participate in a meaningful way.”
To further ensure that those most impacted by criminalization are able to compete as the market opens and matures, the conditional licenses would need …….