Drug offenders first in line to sell cannabis

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ALBANY – For anyone who has ever spent time in the joint for selling or smoking a joint, you might be glad to know you’ll have first dibs on obtaining a license that allows you to sell all the joints you’d like.

"These are small business owners," said Chris Alexander, executive director of the New York State Cannabis Control Board. "These individuals who come from certain communities have been impacted. In the case of people coming from the city, it may have been the case that they were thrown up against the wall and had to empty their pockets."

What Alexander is trying to carry out for Gov. Kathy Hochul is a first of its kind initiative to make sure anyone who suffered the consequences of what the administration sees as an inequitable criminal justice system should now be treated fairly to make up for the bad treatment.

In other words, the governor wants to make right many decades of wrongness.

"Come on, so in other words in order to get this opportunity to get this license, you have had to be criminally charged in the past?" Assemblyman Chris Tague (R – Schoharie) wondered out loud. "I don’t understand it,"

Tague says allowing convicted criminals to move to the front of the line — even if their criminal records have been expunged — sends the wrong message.

"If you read through the bill, and you’ve been through the debates that I’ve been through, there’s not one bit of this that’s going to help any of my dairy farmers or fruit or vegetable farmers in the Schoharie Valley or the Hudson Valley," Tague stated.

"Over the last twenty years I gave the number of almost a million arrests for marijuana offenses," Alexander pointed out. "Almost 90% of them were the lowest level activity, individuals getting arrested for a single joint or a small baggie."

"Nobody is going to want to deal with this," Tague espoused. "They’re just going to go back to getting it the way they were before. That’s exactly what’s going to happen. It’s another failure of one party rule in Albany."

At this point, it’s unclear how many retail licenses will be issued in New York, which happens to be the second most populous state — after California — to legalize possession and use of marijuana for adults over age 21.

Hochul sees the Seeding Opportunity Initiative as jump-starting New York’s cannabis Industry, and as you might expect, Cannabis Control Board members are all on board with her.

"Our state’s Cannabis Law sets a high goal for creating an equitable industry that puts New Yorkers first," said Board Chairman Tremaine Wright.

"The Seeding Opportunity Initiative truly sets New York’s program apart from other states that have legalized adult-use, by starting out of the gate with an equity — and sustainabilty-led program that will supply equity entrepreneur-owned dispensaries with sun-grown cannabis products," added board member Jen Metzger.

"Shaping the New York cannabis industry and putting social equity entrepreneurs at the forefront is an historic opportunity to address the harm caused by cannabis prohibition and fully implement the goals of New York’s Cannabis Law," said board member Adam Perry.

"With this announcement, we are doing what no other state has done by focusing on the people most criminalized by cannabis prohibition, and promoting New York farmers," said Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes. "The cannabis industry is going to grow our economy and create new wealth, and it is imperative that we make sure that opportunities begin with the most deserving New Yorkers."

Tague is far from sold on the initiative.

"They put the cart before the horse all the time just to get out there in front of the people they’re trying to appease," Tague asserted. "Instead of doing the right thing, thinking things out and doing it the right way so that this will actually work."