Historically, cannabis has been one of the most criminalized drugs in America. Thanks to the drug war, people who ran afoul of federal cannabis law were policed harshly by law enforcement and given extremely harsh sentences, especially people of color. In fact, research has shown that there is a clear bias in applying cannabis laws, with Black people being four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis use despite near identical use rates with White people.
Now that the war on drugs has been declared an unmitigated failure, and dozens of states across the U.S. are legalizing cannabis, many reform activists and lawmakers believe that social equity and justice should be a core aspect of the growing cannabis industry. They argue that it is inherently unjust for businesses to profit off of cannabis when tons of people had their lives ruined by relatively minor nonviolent convictions, with some of them still incarcerated for these offenses.
In New York, individuals who were convicted of cannabis offenses will have the first crack at the state’s incoming recreational cannabis industry. Of the 19 states that have legalized recreational cannabis, New York will be the first to solely offer the first cannabis dispensary licenses to entrepreneurs with cannabis convictions on their records. Like most cannabis social-equity provisions, this approach is designed to give Black and Brown communities that were disproportionately affected by the drug war a leg up in the multibillion dollar cannabis industry.
Having a criminal record in America can essentially prevent you from participating in society. A record makes it extremely difficult to obtain employment, housing, federal student aid, professional licenses and firearms. According to the executive director of New York’s Office of Cannabis Management, the state is looking to give people who have gone through “significant challenges” due to cannabis convictions a chance to open and operate successful businesses in the cannabis industry.
Other states with adult-use cannabis programs gave existing medical dispensaries the first chance to roll out recreational cannabis, which only gave big operators a chance to get even bigger. And even though places such as Detroit and Illinois used restrictions or lotteries to promote social equity in licensing, these processes are still engulfed in legislative fixes and legal challenges several years later.
New York will avoid this by issuing its first Conditional Adult Retail-Use Dispensary Licenses to New Yorkers with prior cannabis convictions. Successful applicants will be set up with financing and a retail location by the state to help them develop their recreational cannabis businesses. These locations could open their doors to the public by the end of the year.
The marijuana industry and established actors such as Cannabis Strategic Ventures Inc. (OTC: NUGS) have always believed that legalizing the substance would pave the way for redressing some of the social equity issues observed in the way prohibition laws were enforced. The steps being taken in New York are proof that it is possible to right those wrongs through designing the right legalization policies or laws.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Cannabis Strategic Ventures Inc. (OTC: NUGS) are available in the company’s newsroom at http://cnw.fm/NUGS
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