New York recreational cannabis sales begin

New York recreational cannabis sales begin

By Emma Tucker and Laura Ly, CNN

The first public sales of regulated cannabis in New York began at a dispensary in Manhattan’s East Village on Thursday at 4:20 p.m., hours after the first sale was made to a city official, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced.

Housing Works Cannabis Company became the first licensed dispensary in the state to open its location for business.

The dispensary is operated by Housing Works, a nonprofit that serves people living with HIV/AIDS and the homeless and formerly incarcerated, Hochul said. The store will be open seven days a week and all proceeds will go to Housing Works, which runs a “chain of charity retail storefronts,” according to the announcement.

“We set a course just nine months ago to launch New York’s adult cannabis market by prioritizing equity, and now we’re delivering on that goal,” Hochul said.

The measure would attempt to address racial disparities in cannabis-related arrests with a social and economic equity program to “relieve individuals disproportionately impacted by cannabis enforcement,” city officials said.

The program includes “establishing a target of 50% of licenses to go to a minority- or woman-owned business enterprise, or distressed farmers or service-disabled veterans to encourage participation in the industry,” it said. a city notice.

“Today marks a major milestone in our efforts to create the nation’s fairest cannabis industry,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement Thursday.

“The legal cannabis market has the potential to be a major boon to New York’s economic recovery — creating new jobs, building wealth in historically underserved communities, and increasing state and local tax revenues,” Adams said. .

The bill was signed into law in March 2021

In March 2021, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill allowing the recreational use of marijuana statewide by adults 21 and older after the state Senate and Assembly voted to pass the legislation. The New York State Cannabis/Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act also repeals previous marijuana penalties for acts that would be legal under the new law.

The bill allows adults 21 and older to purchase cannabis from licensed retailers. Adults can also have up to 3 ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of cannabis concentrate. Eighteen months after the first sales begin, the law will allow adults to grow six mature plants and six immature plants at home per household.

It also establishes the Office of Cannabis Management, an independent office that operates as part of the New York State Liquor Authority, to implement a regulatory framework. The office was designed to have a two-tier licensing structure that would separate growers and processors from those who own retail stores, Cuomo’s office previously said.

The law would also add a 13% retail sales tax to state and local tax revenue.

The development of a regulated cannabis industry in New York has the potential to create 30,000 to 60,000 jobs and the ability to generate $350 million annually in tax collections, CNN previously reported.

“People are hungry,” says the CEO

The New York Cannabis Control Board issued the first 36 adult retail licenses on Nov. 21, including 28 to qualifying businesses and eight to nonprofits, according to Hochul’s office.

Housing Works received over 2,000 responses to its invitation to RSVP for the grand opening. The line outside the store was already stretching down the block hours before 4:20 p.m., Charles King, Housing Works chief executive, told CNN on Thursday. King says the nonprofit hopes to have a total of three marijuana dispensaries in Manhattan by the end of 2023.

“I don’t know that we’re actually going to be able to serve everybody in the three hours that we’re open,” King said. “People are thirsty.”

New York state has contracted with various labs to test all cannabis products that will be sold for recreational use to adults, King says. The biggest challenge, he adds, was finding enough products to sell.

Patrons must show their state or federal identification to make a purchase at the dispenser.

“We’re required by regulation to card everyone who comes into the store to make sure they’re over the age of 21 and get documentation that we actually did that card,” King said.

Kenneth Woodin, who waited in line to get into the store for four hours, told CNN affiliate ABC 7, “I want to be a part of history. I like the idea of ​​groomed weeds.”

A fast growing industry

The federal ban on marijuana has not slowed down one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. More than two-thirds of US states have legalized cannabis in some way. California was the first to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Since then, the medical use of cannabis has been legalized in 39 states and the District of Columbia. Recreational use of cannabis is legal in DC and 21 states.

Ballot measures in Missouri and Maryland to legalize recreational marijuana were approved in the 2022 midterm elections, as momentum has grown nationwide to push for the removal of penalties once associated with cannabis.

A Pew Research Center poll conducted in October found that 59% of adults believe marijuana should be legal for both medical and recreational use, while 30% believe it should be legal only for medical use. However, only 10% of adults say marijuana use should not be legal, the survey found.

In October, President Joe Biden took the first significant steps by a U.S. president toward eliminating criminal penalties for marijuana possession by pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana, a move that senior administration officials said it would affect thousands of Americans accused of that crime.

Biden has also tasked the Department of Health and Human Services and Attorney General Merrick Garland with “expeditiously” reviewing how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.

The New York bill follows the legalization of marijuana in neighboring New Jersey. In February 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law bills legalizing and regulating the use of marijuana for those 21 and older, decriminalizing the possession of limited amounts of marijuana, and clarifying the penalties for the use and possession of marijuana and cannabis for those younger than 21 years.

Racial disparities in cannabis arrests

There are large racial disparities in marijuana-related arrests nationwide, according to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“On average, a person of color is 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than a white person, even though black and white people use marijuana at similar rates,” the ACLU said in a 2020 report.

“In every single state, people of color were more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana, and in some states, black people were up to six, eight or almost 10 times more likely to be arrested,” the report said.

Policymakers and industry members should not forget how individuals, especially people of color, continue to be criminalized for activities that are now legal at the state level, Amber Littlejohn, CEO of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, previously told CNN.

“First and foremost, we need to get people out of jail and we need to stop arresting people for doing things that people are making a lot of money doing,” Littlejohn said.

People of color also face tremendous barriers operating within the industry. Efforts have been made to create pathways into the industry for those with non-violent marijuana beliefs whose communities were negatively impacted by the War on Drugs. But those efforts have largely been unsuccessful because of state policies that limit licenses, fail to provide financial and business resources to people of color and benefit multi-state operators with deeper pockets, Littlejohn says.

“I think one of the biggest problems is that there seems to be a tremendous disconnect between what people say they support and believe and what [becomes law],” she said. “It’s up to us, the collective, to hold people accountable.”

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