There was a time when a cannabis conviction might well jeopardize your job prospects.
That’s still true in some cases, of course, but when it comes to New York’s nascent recreational cannabis program, the opposite holds true.
On Thursday, the state will reportedly unveil plans to distribute its first set of adult-use dispensary licenses, and the first 100 to 200 will go to individuals or their family members who have previously been convicted for a pot-related offense.
The announcement comes almost exactly one year after then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill legalizing cannabis for adults ages 21 and older in New York, calling it “a historic day in New York – one that rights the wrongs of the past by putting an end to harsh prison sentences, embraces an industry that will grow the Empire State’s economy, and prioritizes marginalized communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits.”
Many parts of the law took effect immediately, including the right to smoke cannabis anywhere where cigarettes are also allowed.
But the regulated market was slow to take shape under Cuomo, who resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct in August.
His successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, said shortly after taking office that getting the state’s new cannabis program off the ground was a priority.
In September, Hochul completed two key appointments to the state board’s Office of Cannabis Management, which is charged with overseeing and enforcing regulations for New York’s cannabis industry.
“New York’s cannabis industry has stalled for far too long – I am making important appointments to set the Office of Cannabis Management up for success so they can hit the ground running,” Hochul said in a statement at the time.
The plan to give the first cannabis retail licenses to those with cannabis convictions is what the New York Times characterized as part of Hochul’s “concerted push to assure that early business owners in the state’s projected billion-dollar marijuana industry will be members of communities that have been affected by the nation’s decades-long War on Drugs.”
New York intends to launch adult-use marijuana sales later this year; the Times noted that, to support that rollout, Hochul proposed a budget that included $200 million “to support the fledgling businesses, money that would be spent on finding, securing and renovating storefronts for retailers,” which is especially needed in New York City “where real estate prices have rebounded as the worst of the COVID pandemic has receded.”
The Times also reported that Chris Alexander, the executive director of the state’s Office of Cannabis Management, expects “between 100 and 200 licenses to go to people who were convicted of a marijuana-related offense before the drug was legalized, or those who have ‘a parent, guardian, child, spouse, or dependent’ with a marijuana conviction.”
The recreational cannabis market could be a massive boon for New York, the second most populous state (after California) to legalize adult-use cannabis. Hochul’s budget that was unveiled in January predicted that New York’s new cannabis market could generate more than $1.25 billion in revenue over the next six years starting in 2023.
Last month, Hochul signed a bill that established a new conditional adult-use cannabis cultivator license, which her office said will give hemp farmers a pathway to apply to grow cannabis this year for the new adult-use market.
“I am proud to sign this bill, which positions New York’s farmers to be the first to grow cannabis and jumpstart the safe, equitable and inclusive new industry we are building,” Hochul said in a statement at the time. “New York State will continue to lead the way in delivering on our commitment to bring economic opportunity and growth to every New Yorker in every corner of our great state.”