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Just as the universe intended, cannabis is reclaiming its power in our society as a potent medicine. Throughout this process, some of the groups most affected by the nation’s decades-long anti-marijuana tactics have been left in the dark. Recognizing this injustice has led to states making strides toward social equity marijuana policies. One state that is implementing its cannabis social equity program is New York — and their NY cannabis program is setting the precedence for the rest of the country.

The buzzing state announced that it would grant its first cannabis retail licenses to those with previous cannabis convictions. These policies will guarantee that the business owners in the New York state marijuana industry will be individuals that the war on drugs impacted directly.

NY Cannabis Makes Way for Justice

Cannabis in NY became legal for recreational use in 2021. Now, almost a year later, the state has released its plans to issue New York cannabis licenses for retail sales. This is where NY’s marijuana social equity program comes in. To be one of the first to receive a retail cannabis license in New York, you or a member of your family must have been convicted of a marijuana-related offense.

And those aren’t the only individuals who will be receiving some sort of restitution throughout NY’s licensing process. Under New York state marijuana laws, the state will give half of all New York state cannabis licenses to women, minorities, struggling farmers, veterans with disabilities, and “individuals who have lived in communities disproportionately impacted” by the drug war. 

Executive director of the state’s Office of Cannabis Management Chris Alexander says that the state will also evaluate applicants based on their business plans and experience in retail

The amount of retail cannabis licenses New York will issue depends on market demand. The state’s next step is to secure and renovate storefronts for retailers – part of the state’s $200 million proposal to further this policy. The state plans to open the first NY retail cannabis dispensaries by the end of 2022.

Cannabis in NY Social Equity Program Vs. Other States

Other states have attempted similar movements, but New York is executing policies that the US has not yet seen before. For example, states like New Jersey and California accept social equity applicants. However, these applicants experience various obstacles upon entry and struggle to secure storefronts.

Scholar Melissa Perlman says that the barriers to entry for minority entrepreneurs “often prevent them from participating in the mainstream economy,” which rings true in these situations. 

Social equity marijuana policies in NY aim to remove those blockages and allow disadvantaged individuals a fighting chance. In New York, the state would provide financial support to social equity applicants including low or no-interest loans, fee reductions or waivers, and assistance in preparing applications and operating a business.

Will New York state marijuana laws be the new standard for cannabis social equity programs?

NY Cannabis Social Equity Program & Racial Justice

In New York, Black and Latino residents have been far more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than white and non-Hispanic individuals. (People of color comprised more than 94 percent of arrests in 2020.) 

In 2021, the legalization of recreational cannabis in NY included the expungement of many previous cannabis convictions. This set people free for past cannabis crimes that are no longer illegal.

And, according to New York state marijuana laws, forty percent of tax revenue from the new dispensaries will be directed to communities that the drug war impacted.

When it comes to marijuana social equity, the NY cannabis lawmakers are making history for all the right reasons. But will these reparations in NY be enough to offset some of the injustices that people of color still face regarding cannabis?

What is Marijuana Social Equity?

So what does marijuana social equity mean? A cannabis social equity program focuses on the inclusion of communities of color, those impacted by the drug war, women, and other disadvantaged groups. Social equity marijuana policies mean fairness in all things cannabis, from cultivation to retail sales. They also intend to help correct some of the injustices directly related to the war on drugs. 

Not only do social equity programs in cannabis need to exist, but they also need to be able to foster success when it comes to the feasibility and affordability of applications, securing storefronts, and more. New York plans to alleviate these challenges with its policies.

A more diverse cannabis industry with a level playing field means a more prosperous one.

The War on Drugs

Many issues relating to cannabis injustices stem from the war on drugs led by the U.S. federal government. The movement, now referred to as “counterproductive,” began in the 1970s. However, the effects of these strategies still linger today. 

In 1971, President Nixon declared that drug abuse was “public enemy number one.”

This statement riled up the public and began a systemic war. The initiative outlined a set of drug policies that focused on eradicating drugs from the nation and incarcerating those who use them. Many people believe that the war on drugs created an excuse to subject people of color to police violence and arrests with long prison sentences. (Watch 13th on Netflix for more information.)

In 2011, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a report stating that the global war on drugs has failed with “devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.” It’s estimated that the U.S. has spent a cumulative $1 trillion on these initiatives.

Stay Canna-Educated with Elevate Holistics

Cannabis in NY is making monumental moves when it comes to social equity marijuana policies. From evolving weed laws across the states to the latest cannabinoid research, the world of cannabis is constantly changing. Want to stay in the know? The Elevate Holistics blog keeps readers updated on all things marijuana. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive texts or emails about our content and MMJ card sign-up events.

Are you interested in healing yourself with medical marijuana? Elevate Holistics believes that everyone deserves to feel better, naturally. We offer an easy-to-use, fully online way to receive your medical marijuana card in numerous states across the U.S.

Book an appointment today to video chat with one of our certified cannabis physicians. We’ll help you every step of the way to get your MMJ card. Here’s to living better.

New York Patient Resources:

NYS Medical Marijuana: Everything You Should Know

The Best New York Cannabis Brands to Try in 2022

New York MMJ FAQs

Get Your MMJ Card Right From Home

Elevate Holistics’ process is quick, affordable, and done entirely online. It’s never been so easy.

About the author

Ally Hilbert is the Content and SEO Manager here at Elevate Holistics, working to publish and run Elevate’s blogs and landing pages, as well as conduct keyword research, competitor analysis, and more. After having brain surgery at the age of 17, Ally became fascinated with medical cannabis and its benefits, and, at 18, had her first CBD-related piece published. Today, she’s been writing about cannabis for the past six years, and simply can’t think of a better company to get to do it for. When she’s not writing or editing, Ally’s side-by-side with her pup Sadie in Seattle.
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