New York to issue first retail licenses to those with marijuana convictions

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New York’s initial round of 100 to 200 recreational cannabis retail licenses will be focused on applicants with marijuana-related convictions, state officials said.

Priority also will be provided to entrepreneurs with a parent, legal guardian, child or spouse convicted of a marijuana-related offense, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

Advocates said the plan illustrates the state’s commitment to achieving its social equity goals, which include providing 50% of adult-use licenses to equity applicants.

Gov. Kathy Hochul also recently proposed a $200 million fund to provide help building out cannabis businesses to minority entrepreneurs, women, economically distressed farmers, disabled veterans and others affected by the war on drugs.

New York “is taking a big swing,” Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, told the Associated Press.

“We don’t know what’s going to work,” she said, but “the thing that New York is showing here is that they’re willing to try, and they’re willing to do things differently. … This is a real try towards achieving equity.”

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Steve Hawkins, CEO of the U.S. Cannabis Council, said the industry group embraces the effort and sees it as “very meaningful, in terms of giving those individuals impacted by the war on drugs an opportunity to get started in what’s going to be a very significant market in New York state.”

The MJBiz Factbook projects that the New York recreational marijuana market would generate more than $2 billion in sales a year by its fourth year.