“This is going to be about trust,” said Tremaine Wright, New York’s Cannabis Control Board Chair, as she described the partnership taking place between the state and its many legacy cannabis brands. In the wake of New York legalizing adult-use cannabis through the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA), everyone is looking to the Empire State to see how underground brands can flourish in a legal environment, how social equity will be dispensed in one of the country’s most diverse locations, and whether a new evolution of humanity can grow through the plant-based industry. Wright joined Honeysuckle founder Ronit Pinto and Editor-At-Large Jaime Lubin on the Honeysuckle podcast to answer these questions and more.
Watch the full podcast interview with Tremaine Wright here:
Tremaine Wright on New York’s Legacy Cannabis Market
A Brooklyn native and longtime attorney before her career in government, Tremaine Wright couldn’t be a better fit for her position with the Office of Cannabis Management. When asked about New York’s legacy market, she got right to the point: “There is no gray market in New York. Anyone operating or selling cannabis in New York at this time, if not under the medical license, it’s not legal… We understand that New York state has a robust market, that we are asking people to move out of that space and into this regulated space. But it's going to take us building a partnership… It's about them knowing and understanding that as we are building a cannabis industry, a healthy market has a space for everybody. And so long as we stand true and hold ourselves accountable to that premise, I think that we'll be able to create the marketplace and the ecosystem that allows people to know and understand that there's a space for them in it.”
Listen to the full podcast interview here:
Tremaine Wright on New York Craft Cannabis and Microbusiness as the Future
What will that ecosystem entail, exactly? Wright explained that there will be a number of different cannabis licenses available, from cultivation to retail to delivery to onsite consumption and more. An applicant will only be able to receive a license in one category, though some will be eligible for a microbusiness license, meaning that they may be a cultivator, processor, and distributor of their own products. This will, Wright and the Office of Cannabis Management hope, give rise to a New York craft cannabis market.
“We're very supportive of new entrants into the market having an opportunity to do everything from seed to sale,” Wright noted. “And that's what the microbusiness is allowing them to do.” She compared the possibility of New York craft cannabis to the craft wine and beer industry, where local brands have been able to grow their success on par with multinational brands.
“I do think that the microbusiness is going to be a real game changer for us here in New York,” Wright added. “And it'll give a lot of our budding entrepreneurs an opportunity to carve out space for themselves to scale their businesses and to be able to continue to exist and to thrive even when we go national, because I do think, and I really do believe that we will see, cannabis legalize nationally in the near future.”
Tremaine Wright on Social Equity and Expungement in New York Cannabis
But although there are many aspects of New York’s cannabis program that excite Wright, her heart is clearly aligned with the state’s social equity initiative. She reminded us that in 2019, New York decriminalized cannabis and has thus far allowed 400,000 citizens to have their criminal records expunged.
New York may be the first state to have social equity structures mandated in any part of its cannabis program, according to Wright. What she knows for sure is that Governor Kathy Hochul has thrown tremendous support behind the Office of Cannabis Management. In the Governor’s recent State of the State plan, she announced the launch of a $200 million fund to support social equity cannabis applicants with access to capital.
“We’re really looking at ways in which we [can] help people transition back,” commented Wright. “We at the OCM [and] CCB are tasked with putting structures in place to support our small businesses, our new businesses, our social equity applicants with technical assistance, financial planning, and just regular business assistance as they're moving forward. This excites us because this is how we build an industry. The larger players don't need us to participate, [but] our newer entrants to the business, smaller businesses, our businesses that are growing their capacity. [Those] will be the folks that are hiring 25, 50, 100 people locally. Those are the businesses that need us, and we're really excited that we have actually been mandated to support them.”
Stay tuned for more words of wisdom from Tremaine Wright in our upcoming print edition for Black History Month, featuring Wiz Khalifa!