New York City has launched a hub aimed at lifting up equity applicants and small business owners as they get ready to jump into the state’s legal cannabis industry.
On Monday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams joined New York City Department of Small Business Services Commissioner Kevin Kim at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn to announce the launch of “Cannabis NYC.”
Adams said that the city is supporting “equitable growth” of the cannabis industry in New York City by housing the hub at Medgar Evers College. The mayor hopes that the hub, which will expand in the coming months, will help funnel New Yorkers to the roughly 20,000 jobs that the cannabis industry is expected to create, and that they will earn a piece of the $1.3 billion in sales projected by next year.
Adams and other speakers referenced the disproportionately high rates of cannabis arrests for Black and Brown people. Subsequent criminal records created barriers for many of life’s biggest milestones, including college and job applications, and inhibited efforts to build generational wealth.
“If you were to do an analysis of the greatest number of individuals and students who were impacted negatively by an extremely aggressive law enforcement fighting of cannabis, you will find that many of the students were here. They came through this institution,” Adams said. “And now, to be on the cutting edge of part of the economic opportunity, it says a lot.”
The window for Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) license applications opens on Thursday. Applicants are eligible if they have a cannabis conviction and two years of business experience. These license holders will be the first to open adult use cannabis shops. The Office of Cannabis Management released and approved the final regulations and applications during the July meeting of the Cannabis Control Board.
Adams said that he and other New York officials are aware that many applicants might only have business experience running a cannabis operation, which up until March 2021 was considered illegal.
Running a “legal business,” Adams said, is “really different from running your business as a street corner pharmaceutical expert.”
“If we set people up for failure, then we are doing injustice and that’s not what we’re going to do. When you run a legal business, there are many things you need to be aware of, and that’s why we’re doing this partnership with the college so people can get a basic understanding of how to run a legal business.”
SBS Commissioner Kim shared how New Yorkers can “assess” their eligibility for the CAURD license, either through their hotline 888-SBS-4NYC or by visiting nyc.gov/cannabis.
One of the “main goals” of SBS is to “help New Yorkers who have been involved in the unregulated cannabis industry for many, many years transition into the licensed market that will lift up communities throughout our city,” Kim said. “We know that New York City has a moral and economic responsibility to support this industry’s equitable growth.”
New York lawmakers and regulators have beaten the cannabis equity drum since passage of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, often referring to New York as the country’s “most equitable” version of legalization. They appear to have been watching other jurisdictions for lessons learned — especially ones to avoid.
“We have witnessed across the country states and cities that are getting it wrong and we are not going to make those same mistakes here. Today, we’re planning the seeds for the economic growth and the economy of tomorrow,” Adams said. “The regulated adult use cannabis industry is a once in a generation chance for underserved communities, especially Black and Brown communities, to be a part of this new industry here in our city.”
While there’s plenty of talk about the soon-to-be-legal cannabis sales, they’re not legal yet —- despite the rampant open sales taking place throughout the city. Some of these sites are brick and mortar shops, while others are pop ups on the sidewalk. Adams addressed unregulated sales on Monday, but appeared to walk a tightrope.
“You can never have a legal market with an illegal market. They can’t go together,” Adams said.
However, he continued, “we’re not going to have the heavy handed policing that you’ve witnessed in the past,” referencing the stop-and-frisk policing that led to a huge jump in cannabis-related arrests in New York City a decade ago.
“We’re not going back to that. But we’re not going to allow trucks to be parked on our streets openly selling marijuana, coming from out of the city, selling marijuana on our streets, not paying taxes, not abiding by the rules, and you don’t even know what the product is,” Adams said. “We have to be extremely careful what our citizens are consuming. And you can’t have local bodegas selling these products.”
A handful of other speakers joined Adams and Kim on Monday, including Medgar Evers’ President Patricia Ramsey, Arva Rice, president and CEO of the New York Urban League, and Councilmember Kevin Riley. A handful of lawmakers praised the hub in its announcement, including State Senator Diane Savino and State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried.