As New York honors 420 (National Cannabis Day) and the weeklong celebrations surrounding the holiday, it’s clear that city and state government officials are committing to a viable cannabis industry. All month, from special meetings in the state capital of Albany to new announcements of Adult-Use Conditional Cultivator Licenses, New York has forged ahead in crafting its fully-legal market with some of the most encompassing policies yet seen in the country. Today, New York City Mayor Eric Adams introduced major steps toward the creation of an equitable cannabis economy in the Big Apple, which has been known as the world’s consumption capital for years. Now that reputation gets a much-needed regulatory boost.

Keep reading to find out what you need to know about New York government’s embrace of legal cannabis!

NYC Mayor Eric Adams (C) Wikimedia Commons

New York City Mayor Eric Adams Introduces Equitable Cannabis Economy Plan

On April 20, 2022 – the first National Cannabis Day with a functioning Office of Cannabis Management – Mayor Eric Adams announced new steps to usher the adult-use legal cannabis market to New York City more officially. Adams is proposing a $4.8 million investment in the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) executive budget to promote the growth of the industry, which will fund a multiagency community outreach effort, as well as technical assistance for businesses navigating the licensing process. The new investments — which will focus on the communities most impacted by the War on Drugs — come as the city prepares for an influx of new licensed dispensaries and other businesses.

“The cannabis industry could be a major boon to our economic recovery — creating new jobs, building wealth in historically underserved communities, and increasing state and local tax revenue,” Adams said in a public statement. “With a new regulated adult-use cannabis market on the immediate horizon, now is the time for our city to make proactive investments to ensure the people disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of these substances can reap the benefits of the new industry.”

These proposed new investments deliver on a plank of Adams’ “Renew, Rebuild, Reinvent: A Blueprint for New York City’s Economic Recovery,” which calls for a partnership with state and local leaders to build the nation’s most equitable cannabis industry. New York’s adult-use cannabis industry is expected to generate nearly $1.3 billion in sales in its first year and support between 19,000 and 24,000 jobs within three years. This presents a major opportunity to jumpstart the city’s economic recovery, while addressing some of the longstanding inequities exacerbated during the pandemic.

Implementing the steps will take a multiagency effort, and will include targeted outreach and resources from the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS), the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ). In the coming months, these agencies will work in partnership to begin identifying stakeholders in impacted communities, launching a public education tour to educate people about the new process, promoting an educational media campaign, and assessing the needs of interested parties so they can better tailor their services and programs to assist those interested in participating in the industry. Additionally, EDC is prepared to offer assistance to entrepreneurs seeking to access the financing and real estate required to start and grow their businesses.

“We have a real opportunity to develop a thriving and truly equitable cannabis industry in the five boroughs,” said Maria Torres-Springer, Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development. “As we work in close partnership with our city and state partners to design programming and policy, we will make sure that qualifying entrepreneurs interested in entering this industry have the supports and technical assistance they need to navigate the licensing process and launch successful businesses.”

Like the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA) that legalized adult-use cannabis in New York State, New York City’s approach to the regulated industry will have a firm grounding in social equity. Recognizing the disproportionate harm the criminalization of cannabis has inflicted on Black and brown communities, the MRTA has set a goal of awarding half of all licenses to social and economic equity applicants.

Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander (left) and Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright (right) are among those excited about Mayor Adams's statements

How Are New York Government Officials Reacting to News of Mayor Adams’s Equitable Cannabis Economy Plan?

Kevin D. Kim, Commissioner, New York City Department of Small Businesses Services

“This investment delivers critical resources that will allow SBS to reach communities disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of cannabis, and provide New Yorkers with the tools, education, and support needed to meaningfully participate in this industry. Ensuring small businesses are at the center of the regulated cannabis industry will fuel our city’s recovery and advance economic equity.”

Andrew Kimball, President and CEO, New York City Economic Development Corporation

“Mayor Adams is committed to ensuring that communities and individuals most negatively impacted by criminalization can now benefit from the entrepreneurial opportunities and jobs of the newly legal cannabis industry. As we learn from the experiences of other states, NYCEDC and our partners across New York City will work together to ensure equitable access to necessary financing and real estate for these pioneering entrepreneurs.”

Deanna Logan, Director, Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice

“New York City has long been at the forefront of cannabis reform. This investment by the administration is expanding access to economic opportunities for small businesses while promoting equity and addressing the negative impacts of previous cannabis enforcement. We look forward to working with our partners across the city to ensure that the individuals who have disproportionately experienced the negative impact of cannabis criminalization have the resources and support they need to participate in the new industry.”

Lindsey Greene, President and CEO, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation and Member of the 2018 New York City Task Force on Cannabis Legalization

“New York City is putting economic justice front and center with these first wave investments in equitable cannabis business development and outreach programming. These strategic investments are maximizing the chances we can learn from other mistakes and channel the expected wealth from cannabis into communities previously criminalized and those most in need of economic opportunities.”

Tremaine Wright, Chair, Cannabis Control Board

“Building out New York’s cannabis industry is a team effort, and it’s wonderful to have New York City Mayor Eric Adams on board with our efforts to center social equity and job creation. Governor Kathy Hochul has provided the full support of the state government to help us create this industry. Municipal governments will be integral partners as we get this industry off and running, and it’s great to see this investment coming from the largest municipal government in the state.”

Chris Alexander, Executive Director, Office of Cannabis Management

“We are working to build the most robust, equitable and thoughtful cannabis industry in the nation, and we deeply appreciate the support of this administration as we do so. New York City has been a cultural capital for cannabis for decades, Governor Kathy Hochul has been a champion at the state level, and I appreciate Mayor Adams’ championing us at the city level by establishing multi-agency efforts to make sure New York City also becomes the business capital for cannabis too.”

Liz Krueger, New York State Senator

“I am pleased that New York City is providing resources to support the development of a cannabis industry in New York City rooted in principles of equity and reinvestment in communities disproportionately impacted by the drug war. I look forward to working with Mayor Adams and the New York State Office of Cannabis Management in their efforts to ensure that the goals of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act are fulfilled.”

James Sanders Jr., New York State Senator

“The War on Drugs unleashed severe damage and ruined many lives — particularly in communities of color. We must ensure that companies that profit the most from the legalization of cannabis will contribute part of their profits back into the communities most harmed by the war on drugs.”

Albany Press Conference with the National Cannabis Party, left to right: Reginald "Redman" Noble, Sephida Artis-Mills, Senator James Sanders, Mang-Yee "Juicy" Reverie, Andrew Behringer (C) Jaime Lubin / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

National Cannabis Party and Senator James Sanders Introduce Cannabis Community Reinvestment Act: New York Cannabis News From Albany

New York State Senator James Sanders Jr. is particularly knowledgeable about the importance of social equity in building out the regulated cannabis market. Earlier this month, he joined with representatives from the National Cannabis Party to introduce legislation for the Cannabis Community Reinvestment Act (CCRA). Announced in an exclusive press conference at Albany’s Legislative Office Building just ahead of the New York State Association of Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislators Conference, the CCRA bill is seen as a ray of hope in restorative justice regarding the harms from the War on Drugs.

The bill would require multi-state cannabis operators in the industry to create a plan to reinvest in communities disproportionately impacted by prohibition. Sanders, who is also Chair of Banking for New York State, said that the legislation would require that cannabis corporations of all sizes entering communities that had been harmed by the War on Drugs give at least 2 percent of their annual revenue for community use.

“That 2 percent ensures that our communities can compete and join in the benefits of having legalized cannabis,” Sanders commented. “It’s time that we gave you the most effective way of making sure that those communities that have been impacted are made whole. One of the most effective devices that the federal government has is something called the Community Reinvestment Act. This act says that if banks and… corporations are doing business in a community, they have to give back to that community… This has led to the building of housing and businesses, to the creation of jobs. This has led to the formation of youth organizations. Many things have been created from the CRA… We need a Cannabis Community Reinvestment Act. We need to ensure that giant corporations, or corporations large and small, come into a community, take wealth from the community and share some of that with the community.”

Sephida Artis-Mills (center) on Equity Empowerment (C) Jaime Lubin / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

The National Cannabis Party on Equity Empowerment

Sanders’s team confirmed in a public statement that the Senator would seek to work with the National Cannabis Party on a grassroots campaign to build support for the legislation. Present at the press conference were the National Cannabis Party’s co-founders: rapper Reginald “Redman” Noble; Sephida Artis-Mills, the organization’s president; Andrew Behringer, its Director of Policy and Advocacy; and artist/media personality and cannabis entrepreneur Mang-Yee “Juicy” Reverie. Established in January 2021, the National Cannabis Party is a federally-recognized political party dedicated to championing the regulation of cannabis into society through education, scientific advancement, and economic growth. In the fifteen months since its birth, the party has been on a nonstop nationwide tour to spread its message.

“The power belongs to the people, and so does the plant,” Artis-Mills said. “To control the way people choose their medicine, and overall wellness, is a civil rights issue we need to address… Equity is not something that is a luxury for everyone… I feel that New York has the opportunity to be the example.”

Artis-Mills went on to explain that the National Cannabis Party’s goal for social equity both in New York and throughout the country is to provide “equity empowerment.” Reminding the crowd that 40,000 people are still imprisoned nationwide on cannabis-related drug charges, she emphasized the unfairness of a system that incarcerates some groups for engaging in cannabis while others are allowed to become millionaires and give the states additional millions in tax revenue.

“We believe people should be given resources so that they can have options of what they want to do and what they want to create in the cannabis industry,” she continued. “I think there needs to be more clinical research, more educational studies done, and there needs to be clean medication available for everyone. [Cannabis is] medicine regardless of how you use it. I want to be able to change the narrative and the stigma around cannabis… We’re here to show what equity empowerment is and to show what unity looks like.”

Redman (center) speaks about the impact of the National Cannabis Party (C) Jaime Lubin / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

Redman: Cannabis Community Reinvestment Act Is "History in the Making"

For his part, Redman asserted that the linguistics of the phrase “equity empowerment” alone will help give people in various communities a greater sense of dignity in working toward their goals. Noting that there are many issues in the cannabis industry to problem-solve, he noted that “National Cannabis Party is going to be the umbrella for everything – mom and pops, MSOs, everyone… We’re here to make change in the industry and give the plant back to the people. We want our people to be educated, we want our people to be prepared. We want to also magnify what they’re working for, where they’re going as far as working in the cannabis industry… Being here with Senator Sanders is history in the making!”

The Cannabis Community Reinvestment Act is NY State Senate Bill S8738; track its progress and tell your local legislators to join with Senator Sanders in supporting it.

Tremaine Wright, Cannabis Control Board Chair (C) New York State Office of Cannabis Management

Office of Cannabis Management Announces First Adult-Use Conditional Cultivator Licenses

At the most recent meeting of the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) on April 14, 2022, the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) announced the approval of New York’s first 52 Adult-Use Conditional Cultivator Licenses. These licenses allow existing New York farmers and companies who are already cultivating hemp with .3 percent THC or less to begin growing adult-use cannabis plants for the 2022 season.

As CCB chair Tremaine Wright and OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander noted, in late March Governor Hochul signed the measure for Conditional Cannabis Cultivation into law. This law also established the Seeding Opportunity Initiative, which positions individuals with prior cannabis-related criminal offenses to make the first adult-use cannabis sales with products grown by New York farmers. In the ongoing effort to comply with the social equity directives set forth by the MRTA and the Seeding Opportunity Initiative, the inaugural 52 Conditional Cultivator Licenses have been awarded to qualifying equity applicants as well.

See all 52 approved entities listed in the screenshots from the CCB meeting below.

Chair Wright mentioned that the OCM and CCB have received over 150 applications for Conditional Cultivator Licenses to date. According to Alexander, these 52 represent just the initial batch and that more licenses will be granted on a rolling basis now through June 30, 2022, when the application window closes. New Yorkers will surely stay tuned to see what happens after that.

New York Cannabis News on the Home Cultivation Program and Tax Laws

In additional news, OCM’s Director of Health and Safety Nicole Quackenbush reported that the first Public Comment period for New York’s Home Cultivation Program, which would allow medical cannabis patients to grow their own plants, has closed with comments from over 160 stakeholders. The feedback influenced the OCM to update the proposed regulatory language on the program. There is new clarity in defining what kinds of outdoor cultivation are permitted for home grow, as well as designated caregiver plant limits. OCM has also revised storage and security requirements in the regulations to reduce costs for patients and provide them additional safety. New provisions have been made for the sale of medical cannabis seeds and immature plants for home cultivation through entities licensed by or registered with the OCM.

However, Quackenbush said that home cultivation is still not legal in New York until the close of the next comment period round. Based on the CCB’s vote, which approved a new comment period of 45 days, we might have longer to wait before home grow is available for good.

Finally, Chris Alexander presented his Executive Report, showing that the New York State Department of Labor has launched a Cannabis Workforce Site to help provide resources for people wishing to enter the industry. He also explained that a new amendment had been added to the state’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget which will “decouple” New York’s tax codes from the federal codes regarding cannabis prohibition. Federal tax code 280(e) prohibits cannabis businesses from deducting normal expenses for tax purposes, due to cannabis’s status as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. The act of “decoupling” New York tax codes will mean that cannabis businesses operating in the Empire State can deduct normal expenses when calculating their tax liability, which will open many more opportunities for cannabis companies to profit.

And when cannabis wins, so do we.