But that will not apply to the state’s few but influential medical cannabis corporations, which currently operate about 40 dispensaries statewide. Those companies will be allowed to keep their operations vertically integrated, meaning they could cultivate, process and sell cannabis.
Supporters said the new law has guardrails to prevent a few companies from dominating the market and to make sure that wealthy white investors do not reap most of the benefits, which critics say is what has happened in other states.
Half of business licenses, for example, are supposed to be issued to “social equity applicants.” That includes people from communities with high rates of marijuana enforcement, as well as businesses owned by women and minorities, distressed farmers and disabled veterans. Priority will also be given to applicants who have a marijuana-related conviction, or a close relative with such a conviction.
“I cannot be more proud to cast my vote to end the failed policies of marijuana prohibition in our state and begin the process of building a fair and inclusive legal market for adult use cannabis,” State Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan who sponsored the bill in the upper chamber, said in the State Capitol. “It has been a long road to get here, but it will be worth the wait.”
The Cannabis Control Board will conduct a review two years after the first retail sale of cannabis to study the market share in the industry and make licensing adjustments to ensure equity. And the medical cannabis firms would be limited to only eight dispensaries each.
The bill passed the State Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 40 to 23 and the Assembly by a vote of 94 to 56, with all Republicans and about a dozen Democrats voting against the bill.
“This law comprehensively addresses the harms of overcriminalization and establishes one of the most ambitious marijuana legalization programs in the nation,” said Melissa Moore, the state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a national advocacy organization.
“Through this sweeping legislation, New York is delivering reforms that place community reinvestment, social equity, and justice at the core of the law.”