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New York Develops Adult Use Marijuana Rules: Social Equity Concerns Emerge

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Mayor Eric Adams of New York City announced they would take big steps in welcoming the cannabis industry to the city. He even emphasized the focus on equity. The mayor proposes a $4.8 investment for this program in the executive budget for the Fiscal Year 2023. They will use this budget to encourage the growth of the cannabis industry. It will mainly fund a multi-agency community outreach effort and technical assistance for cannabis businesses that will navigate the licensing process. This new investment will focus on communities affected by the “war on drugs.” This is one of the new marijuana legalized NY rules as NY prepares for the arrival of newly licensed dispensaries and other cannabis-related businesses.

The MRTA

The New York State Senate will pass legislation today that will be part of the marijuana legalized NY rules. The legislation will bring the prohibition of adult-use marijuana in the state to an end. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) is a bill sponsored by Senator Kiz Kruger. It will create a new office with the purpose of regulating cannabis and decriminalizing adult-use cannabis. 

The MRTA will create a new Cannabis Law that combines the new program for adult-use cannabis with the existing program for medical cannabis and the existing program for cannabinoid hemp. The new law will be under the regulation of the Cannabis Control Board, which is newly created, and the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). Both of these offices will be under the control of the State Liquor Authority (SLA).

The MRTA will be in charge of building the structure that will create a regulated market. This industry will take over the illegal market while preventing bigger companies from ruling the entire cannabis market. The legislation will also create equity programs to provide grants, incubator programs, and loans. This will allow vast opportunities for participation in the newly legal industry for people from the communities disproportionately affected by the prohibition of marijuana and small farmers of cannabis. 

Another significant provision of the MRTA is the automatic expungement of records for those who have past convictions for cannabis-related crimes that aren’t considered criminal in nature anymore. The Law provides the establishment of an Office of Cannabis Management with a 5-member board. The governor will appoint 3 members, and each legislative house will appoint 1. The law will also establish a Chief Equity Officer and an Executive Director subject to the approval of a minimum of 4 board members.

 

Why is there a need for new rules?

Mayor Adams and the rest of the senate members thought long and hard about the marijuana legalized NY rules. When talking about the MRTA, Mayor Adams said, “The cannabis industry could be a major boon to our economic recovery— creating new jobs, building wealth in historically underserved communities, and increasing state and local tax revenue. With a new regulated adult-use cannabis market on the immediate horizon, now is the time for our city to make proactive investments to ensure the people disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of these substances can reap the benefits of the new industry.”

The new investment will also bring new opportunities. According to Mayor Adams, the program calls for a partnership between local and state officials. They must work together to establish the most profitable cannabis industry in the country. They expect that the industry of adult-use marijuana will generate around $1.3 billion in sales in the first year. It will also support 19,000 to 24,000 jobs within the next 3 years. This provides a huge opportunity to kick-start the economic recovery of NY while dealing with some of the inequities that have worsened during the pandemic.

Maria Torres-Springer, the Deputy Mayor for Economic and Development, also has opinions regarding the MRTA. According to her, there is a great opportunity to develop an equitable and thriving industry in NY. By working closely with the state and city partners to create a policy and program, they can help qualifying entrepreneurs who want to participate in the industry. They will support these entrepreneurs and provide technical assistance to successfully navigate the licensing process and launch their businesses.

Solving a common problem

Having a cannabis-related crime on a person’s record makes it challenging to find safe housing and employment. It could also increase the risk for some health issues. Provided in the MRTA as one of the marijuanas legalized NY rules is the expungement of cannabis-related crimes. This refers to the legal process of eliminating a qualifying crime from someone’s record. In some states, they require that the individual petition the court for the expungement of the crime. 

But when states adopt this process, very few qualified individuals take advantage of the opportunity. According to a study, only around 4% to 6% of qualified individuals apply. In NY, the individual isn’t required to petition for the expungement of their cannabis-related crime. 

The city offers a process of automatic expungement wherein the court will identify, then automatically expunge cases that aren’t legal under the new law, eliminate qualifying sentences that an individual is currently serving, and re-classify any crimes that the new law has downgraded. Apart from making it legal for adults to possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis, the state also decriminalizes certain cannabis-related behaviors. Because of this, said behaviors are subject to monetary fines instead of criminal sanctions.

A thriving illicit market

According to the experts in the cannabis industry, the success of marijuanas legalized NY rules such as the social equity program is important to reduce the existing market for illicit marijuana that threatens the upcoming legal one. There are concerns regarding the lack of progress in filling social equity positions. There are also proposed regulations that govern the retailers of adult-use cannabis. These proposed regulations are just one of the many sets of rules that the regulators in the state are working on.

Overall, New York has taken a gradual approach to draft the regulations and finalize them. For instance, the Cannabis Control Board unanimously approved a set of strict rules for weed packaging and marketing. According to some officials in the industry, these rules will make it more challenging for cannabis business owners to develop their own distinct brands.

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