Reefer Reparations: NY to give convicted marijuana dealers, sellers first dibs on legal weed licenses

Convicted stoners and their relatives in New York state will be at the head of the line to grab one of 150 business licenses to legally sell weed, thanks to a Dem-led policy that seeks forgiveness for disproportionately arresting and convicting dealers and sellers from the African-American and Hispanic communities.

Think of it as Reefer Reparations.

The use of marijuana for 21-and-over recreational purposes was legalized by the Empire State in March 2021, the Daily Mail reports, and those who had been locked up for possessing the drug were made eligible for resentencing.

As BizPac Review reported earlier this month, new rules from state regulators now allow for marijuana and THC-infused edibles to be delivered to New Yorkers like an order of Kung Pao chicken.

According to a statement released by the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), “CAURD [Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary]  Licensees will be able to receive approval from the Office of Cannabis Management to begin delivery to customers, jumpstarting sales of New York cannabis products with a model that will help them compete.”

And what an industry it is.

According to the Daily Mail, New York estimates it will rake in $1.3 billion in legal sales and employ up to 24,000 residents.

In order to qualify for the first of the licenses, applicants must first have a conviction.

The second stipulation may prove a bit more difficult.

Applicants must already own a profitable business.

Difficult, but far from impossible.

Ph.D. art student Naiomy Guerrero, from the Dominican Republic, didn’t catch a drug charge, but her brother did, which makes her eligible.

“It’s such an exciting moment for my family,” she said. “Especially given where we come from and everything we have been through, with the discriminatory policies that the city has had, like stop and frisk.”

Last month, Guerrero was one of the first 28 applicants to be awarded a license to set up their legal pot shop.

“In 2018, a state report estimated that there had been 800,000 arrests for marijuana possession in the previous 20 years,” the Daily Mail reports. “In 2017, most of those arrested were Black, 48 percent, while Hispanics made up 38 percent of arrests.”

According to OCM Chairwoman Tremaine Wright, “Prohibition denied people opportunities, it caused divestment in communities, it broke up families.”

Desmon Lewis, co-founder of The Bronx Community Foundation is helping applicants to receive their licenses. He is cautiously optimistic about the blossoming cannabis program.

“We’re still at the very beginning of our journey of social equity,” Lewis said. “We need education, we need funding.”

Currently, the issue of funding is far from certain.

A key state deadline for the team in charge of raising $150 million from private investors for New York’s $200 million dollar fund was missed, raising fears that licensees may not receive promised ready-made stores.

“For some people, it is very confusing,” said Eli Northrup of the Bronx Defenders. “They are relying on this location and these funds. Now it’s like the sand is shifting below their feet.”

And then there are the unlicensed sellers who have illegally set up shops on the streets and in the back of bodegas since marijuana was decriminalized.

Some fear they may present strong competition for those who have opted to go legit.

In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams seems determined to keep things on the level.

More than 600 pounds of illegal marijuana, worth approximately $4 million on the streets, was seized by New York. City law enforcement officers in the past two weeks, the New York Daily News reported, and, last week, Hizzoner announced a city-wide crackdown on illegal pot sales.

Dealers received 500 civil summonses and 66 criminal ones.

“We will not let economic opportunities that legal cannabis offers be taken for a ride by unlicensed establishments,” Adams said. “It’s high time that unlicensed stores stopped selling illegal products and comply with the laws.”

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