NY Cannabis Insider: Social Justice Is Key To New York’s New Marijuana Law


New York’s efforts to legalize adult recreational marijuana lasted three years and resulted in a 128-page, 7,000-line bill that will take more than a year to become fully effective.

Let’s just say it’s complex. Most fundamentally, however, it is now legal for anyone age 21 and older to have up to three ounces of marijuana for personal use.

But from the question of how to deal with driving disruptions, to start-up growth strategies, to the possible introduction of retail sales, there are many questions.

This is where the NY Cannabis Insider Live event came in, which was held online on May 20th. The event’s panel of experts presented their views on the main issues of the new law. And they asked questions and tried to provide insights into those for whom answers are available.

If there was one recurring theme throughout the presentation, it was the importance of the provisions of the Social Justice Act.

These aim to repair the damage that has been done to disadvantaged, mostly minority communities in the past by the prosecution of marijuana laws. It is also intended to provide opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses, disabled veterans and “distressed” farmers.

The law provides for the “deletion” of records of marijuana crimes that would no longer be illegal under the new law. The aim is to offer 50% of business licenses (e.g. retail pharmacies) to people disproportionately affected by drug arrests and convictions and to make financial investments in these communities.

While other states have incorporated some of these elements into their marijuana laws, “New York is the only one branded it into from the start,” said panelist Ngiste Abebe, president of the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association and vice president of Public Policy at Columbia Care.

“It’s justice-based legislation,” said Dasheeda Dawson, the “cannabis tsar” for Portland, Ore. “New York has set a precedent in this bill.”

It’s important, she said, because “social justice is the vehicle while health equity is the goal.”

State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, helped put the law into practice. She was the main speaker at the event.

“It’s very advanced,” she said. “It doesn’t fix racism. In all honesty, it doesn’t do anything about racism. What it is doing is to acknowledge that this (marijuana persecution) has been implemented on a racist issue. Let’s acknowledge this fact and fix the lives of the people it hurt. “

These speakers and other panellists raised other issues while realizing that the state has not yet established a cannabis management bureau to write the specific regulations and issue business licenses.

Other participants in the discussion were Allan Gandelman, founder and president of the New York State Cannabis Growers and Processors Association, which runs a cannabis business in Cortland. Arthur Hance, founder and president of Hance Construction, which serves the industrial, commercial and cannabis markets in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania; Sam Andras, Senior Principal and Partner at MJ12 Design Studio / 2WR + Partners, which provides services to the cannabis industry; and David Serrano, founder and head of business development at Harvest 360 and H360 Labs, NY Cannabis Insider’s social equity partner for the event.

Hance Construction was the main sponsor for NY Cannabis Insider Live. It was produced by NJ Cannabis Insider in association with Advance Media New York, the publisher of syracuse.com, NYup.com and The Post-Standard.

More on legal marijuana in New York:

Legal marijuana in NY: what you need to know about owning, growing, and doing business

New York’s marijuana tax may not be the highest in the nation. But it can be the most complex

Recreational Marijuana Is Legal In NY: Could The Government Still Arrest You?

Is your New York marijuana conviction overturned? Knowing the simple numbers

Does legal marijuana mean the end of corporate drug testing in New York?

4 ways potty smoking can still cause problems in New York state

Don Cazentre writes for NYup.com, syracuse.com, and The Post-Standard. Reach out to him at dcazentre@nyup.com or follow him on NYup.com, on Twitter, or on Facebook.