New Yorkers With Weed Convictions To Get First Licenses

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Proposal would give first 100 to 200 licenses to people with weed-related convictions or to relatives of people who were convicted

New York is seeking to award its first retail licenses to sell recreational cannabis to applicants who have been convicted of a marijuana-related offense or whose relatives have been found guilty of a crime connected to pot, the state said Wednesday.

The state Office of Cannabis Management plans to reserve 100 to 200 licenses for people with ties to convictions for a cannabis-related offense prior to the drug’s legalization, according to the proposed regulations released Wednesday by the Office of Cannabis Management. The state hasn’t yet established how many licenses will be given in total, said Freeman Klopott, a spokesman for the government agency.

As marijuana legalization has gained momentum around the country, critics have pointed out that many of the people who were punished most severely for marijuana crimes are missing out on opportunities to profit as the industry goes mainstream. In New York, the 2021 law that made the state the nation’s second-largest market for legal marijuana includes provisions designed to bolster social equity, aimed in particular at helping communities of color that for decades were disproportionately targeted under state and federal drug laws.

The law was “designed not only to end the failed war on drugs in New York, but specifically to take positive action to help rebuild those communities that were most harmed by prohibition,” state Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat who shepherded the bill into law, said in a statement.

The first retail licenses would go to people with a marijuana conviction or those who “had a parent, legal guardian, child, spouse, or dependent” who was convicted of a cannabis-related offense prior to March 31, 2021, or was a dependent of an individual who was convicted.

The state’s Cannabis Control Board is scheduled to meet on Thursday when it will likely vote on the regulations, Klopott said.

Retail sales in New York, projected to be a billion-dollar industry, could begin by year’s end.