In New York, ex-convicts get their first cannabis licenses

NEW YORK: Naiomy Guerrero’s brother has often been arrested by the police and has already been convicted of drug trafficking when marijuana was illegal in New York. Now she sets up a cannabis company, a promising new market strewn with pitfalls. New York State offers its first 150 licenses for the legal sale of cannabis to people – and their loved ones – who have been convicted of drug-related offences, including dealing.
The policy, implemented by Democratic leaders in the state, seeks to compensate African American and Hispanic communities whose members have been disproportionately arrested and convicted over the decades the weed was illegal. “It’s such an exciting time for my family,” said Guerrero, 31, a doctoral student in art history whose parents are from the Dominican Republic. “Especially considering where we’re from and all that we’ve been through, with the discriminatory policies the city has had, like stop and frisk,” she said.
Last month, Guerrero was one of the first 28 successful applicants to receive their license to open an official store and sell locally grown cannabis. Licenses come more than a year after New York State legalization cannabis use.
In New York, the smell of weed is now as pervasive as that of skyscrapers. The city government expects the legal cannabis industry to generate $1.3 billion in sales by next year and between 19,000 and 24,000 jobs within three years. This represents much needed tax revenue. In 2018, a state report estimated that there were 800,000 arrests for possession of marijuana over the previous 20 years. In 2017, most of those arrested were black (48%), while Hispanics made up 38% of arrests. “Ban robbed people of opportunity, it caused disinvestment in communities, it broke up families,” said Tremaine Wright, chair of the Board of Control for the Office of Cannabis Management in New York.


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