NY Cannabis Insider: Social equity is the key to New York’s new marijuana law

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New York’s effort to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use took three years to accomplish and resulted in a 128-page, 7,000-line law that will require more than a year to fully take effect.


Let’s just say it’s complex. But the most fundamental thing to know is that it’s now legal for those 21 and over to possess up to three ounces of marijuana for personal use.


But from the issue of how to handle impaired driving, to start-up growing strategies to the eventual roll-out of retail sales, there are plenty of questions.


That’s where the NY Cannabis Insider Live event held online May 20 came in. The event’s expert panel presented their takes on the major issues in the new law. And they took questions — attempting to provide insights on those for which answers are available.


If there was one recurring theme to the entire presentation, it was the importance of the law’s social equity provisions.


These aim to repair the damage caused to disadvantaged, mostly minority, communities by the prosecution of marijuana laws in the past. It’s also supposed to provide opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses, disabled veterans and “distressed” farmers.


The law provides for the “expungement” of records for marijuana crimes that would no longer be illegal under the new law. Its goal is to offer 50% of business licenses (such as retail dispensaries) to those disproportionately affected by drug arrests and convictions, and make financial investments in those communities.


While other states have included some of these elements in their marijuana laws, “New York is the only one where it was baked in from the beginning,” said panelist Ngiste Abebe, president of the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association, and vice president of Public Policy at Columbia Care.


“It’s equity-centered legislation,” said Dasheeda Dawson, the “cannabis czar” for Portland, Ore. “New York was setting a precedent in this bill.


It’s important, she said, because “social equity is the vehicle, while health equity is the destination.”


State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, helped guide the law into approval. She was the event’s keynote speaker.


“It’s very progressive,” she said. “It doesn’t fix racism. It does nothing for racism, quite honestly. What it does is acknowledge that this (marijuana prosecution) was implemented in a racial matter. Let’s acknowledge that fact and fix the lives of the people it hurt.”


Those speakers and other panelists addressed other issues, all the while noting that the state still has yet to create the Office of Cannabis Management, which will write the specific regulations and issue business licenses.


Other panelists were Allan Gandelman, founder and president of the New York State Cannabis Growers and Processors Association, who runs a cannabis business in Cortland; Arthur Hance, founder and president of Hance Construction, which provides services to the industrial, commercial and cannabis markets in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania; Sam Andras, senior principal & partner at MJ12 Design Studio/2WR + Partners, which provides services to the cannabis industry; and David Serrano, founder and chief of Business Development at Harvest 360 and H360 Labs, which was NY Cannabis Insider’s social equity partner for the event.


Hance Construction was the primary sponsor for for NY Cannabis Insider Live. It was produced by NJ Cannabis Insider in collaboration with Advance Media New York, the publisher of syracuse.com, NYup.com, and The Post-Standard.

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