The medical cannabis industry can help create a recreational plan

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Thanks to the development and distribution of vaccines, a light is shining at the end of the coronavirus pandemic tunnel. However, it will be years before the economic damage caused by the COVID crisis is repaired. With the April 1st budget deadline approaching, New York needs, more than ever, a responsible and forward-looking spending plan that emphasizes job creation and revenue creation to fuel the recovery effort.

Legalizing adult cannabis can do just that. But Albany must act quickly to put in place a smart program that will accelerate the availability of well-regulated products to compete with surrounding states. The best way to achieve this goal is to leverage the existing expertise and infrastructure of the medical cannabis operators who have been in New York since 2016.

MPG, one of the leading cannabis policy advisors in the United States, has determined that the New York program offers the opportunity to support over 20,000 full-time workers by 2023, if like any other state that has a successful adult use program in place , the program relies on existing medical operators as a stepping stone.

This approach allows New York to bring safe and well-regulated cannabis products to market faster, create more jobs, and generate more tax revenue. Immediately involving medical cannabis providers in an emerging adult use program would result in additional taxes of $ 693 million to $ 984 million, according to the MPG, and the creation of nearly 10,000 full-time jobs per year over a five-year period.

With the new bill finalized in Washington, New York will receive much-needed federal financial support. This will help repair some of the short-term damage caused by the pandemic, but not enough to restore the economy in the long term. New York cannot fully recover without investing in efforts to build new businesses that create high-paying jobs to sustain individuals and families for years.

We also need to keep the jobs we have. As unemployment continues at unprecedented levels, lawmakers must pass an adult use bill that will protect New York’s existing medical cannabis jobs. Without the ability to enter the adult market through cultivation, processing and retailing activities, medical operators will be forced to close facilities and lay off workers.

The state’s medical cannabis program supports around 3,000 jobs nationwide, including many union members. Adult use legislation promises thousands of additional stable union jobs if done correctly. Only if medical operators can process products in the adult market and sell them wholesale can it be ensured that existing jobs are protected. There are four times as many processing jobs while growing, and maintaining those jobs is critical to creating the opportunity for long-term growth that will employ thousands more New Yorkers.

Medical cannabis operators also stand ready to help seed and support major equity programs and encourage minority-owned companies to enter the cannabis space. If the state does not allow medical operators to play an important and early role in the implementation of an adult use program, aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs who have already paid too high a price due to the cannabis ban will have to wait at least two more years to get from capitalizing on the most significant economic opportunity of the decade.

Adult cannabis offers New York unique opportunities to grow its economy, create new jobs and revenue, and ultimately combat the damage caused by the ill-conceived war on drugs to low-income color communities. However, these opportunities can only be realized if Albany goes beyond its current political stalemate and passes a law to legalize it that maximizes the potential of the industry and uses existing medical operators as a launch pad.

Ngiste Abebe is President of the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association and Director of Public Policy for Columbia Care.