Marijuana social equity programs have been highly beneficial to society’s low-income groups, especially those communities which had suffered as a result of criminalization of cannabis use. A new marijuana bill hopes to alleviate these concerns for gay, lesbian and bisexual people.
An attempt to remedy this was seen when New York state senator, Jeremy Cooney (D), filed two separate bills, one to include transgender and non-binary people in the cannabis social equity program, and another to make gay, lesbian, and bisexual people qualify as social equity applicants under the state’s law.
Sen. Cooney is also sponsoring a bill to allow licensed cannabis companies to deduct some business expenses on their state tax returns. In July, he filed a bill to create a provisional marijuana licensing category so that farmers could begin cultivating and selling cannabis before the program was fully implemented.
This proposal, and the legislation to include lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals to qualify as social equity applicants, have been referred to the Senate Rules Committee.
New York legalized marijuana in March 2021. The new law allowed adults to possess and publicly consume cannabis, but regulations on retail sales are yet to be implemented. In the meantime, Sen. Cooney is trying to make the benefits more inclusive.
The Roc City Cannabis Carnival, with over 90 WNY cannabis vendors, was a confident display of the up-and-coming opportunities available to all NYers in the new equitable and accessible cannabis market. #HydroInc pic.twitter.com/qZApFEXjiJ
— Senator Jeremy Cooney (@SenatorCooney) December 19, 2021
Cooney told that he was proud to introduce legislation to include members of lesbian, gay and bisexual community for priority licensure in the new adult-use recreational cannabis market, because, when the state of New York legalized adult-use recreational marijuana, a commitment was made to addressing the discrimination and injustice caused by the War on Drugs.
He added that social justice and social equity were embedded throughout the [Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act] and the legislation was designed to uplift historically marginalized groups through economic opportunities in the cannabis industry.
He said the authorities were committed to making New York the most inclusive cannabis economy in the nation. Under the present law, at least 50% of the state’s business licenses must go to equity applicants, who include people “from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition,” minority-and-women-owned businesses, distressed farmers, and service-disabled veterans.
The first licensed recreational marijuana retailers in New York may be located in Indian territory, with one tribe already having invited applications for licenses in October.
However, one GOP senator wants to give local authorities one more year to decide if they would opt out of allowing marijuana businesses in their territory. Kathy Hochul (D), Governor of New York, has repeatedly expressed her keenness in efficiently implementing the legalization law and creating new jobs through this.
New York’s Cannabis Control Board (CCB) held its first meeting in October, and members of the board announced that medical marijuana dispensaries would be allowed to sell flower cannabis products to qualified patients. They also waived the $50 registration fee for patients and caregivers.
In November, regulators approved rules for the state’s cannabinoid hemp program, according to which, flower from the crop can be sold but delta-8 THC products cannot be. Regulators in the neighboring New Jersey recently released rules for its adult-use marijuana program, and this is encouraging New York also to get its market established.
Though, for the first year, the state is expected to get only $20 million from cannabis sales, the industry is eventually expected to generate $245 million in annual revenue, which could help to compensate the losses from declining tobacco sales.
In a new guideline announced separately by the state’s Department of Labor, New York employers should not drug test most workers for marijuana any more.
A New York legislator introduced a bill in June to make the state establish an institute to research the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, while another filed a legislation in December to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for medical use and establish facilities for growing it and administering it to patients.