In New York, previously convicted get first cannabis licences

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  • December 18, 2022

NEW YORK: Naiomy Guerrero’s brother was stopped by police often and was once convicted on drug charges when marijuana was illegal in New York. Now, she is setting up a legal cannabis business, a promising new market fraught with pitfalls. New York state is offering its first 150 licences for the legal sale of cannabis to people – and their relatives – who have been convicted of offences related to the drug, including selling.
The policy, implemented by the state’s Democratic leaders, seeks to compensate African-American and Hispanic communities whose members were disproportionately arrested and convicted during the decades weed was illegal. “It’s such an exciting moment for my family,” said 31-year-old Guerrero, a PhD art history student whose parents are from the Dominican Republic. “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,” she said.
Last month, Guerrero was one of the first 28 successful applicants who received their licence to open an official store and sell locally-grown cannabis. The licences come over a year after New York state legalised cannabis use.
In New York city, the smell of weed is now about as ubiquitous as skyscrapers. The city government expects the legal cannabis industry to generate $1.3 billion in sales by next year and between 19,000 and 24,000 jobs in three years. That represents much-needed tax revenues. In 2018, a state report estimated there had been 800,000 arrests for marijuana possession in the previous 20 years. In 2017, most of those arrested were black (48%), while Hispanics made up 38% of arrests. “Prohibition denied people opportunities, it caused divestment in communities, it broke up families,” said Tremaine Wright, chairwoman of the control board for New York’s Office of Cannabis Management.


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