Can New York get cannabis right?

4 mins read

When New York passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, social justice was a priority in legalizing adult-use cannabis in the state. But already, the goals of the law — which says 40 per cent of tax revenue and 50 per cent of licenses will go to communities and individuals who were disproportionately impacted by prohibition — are at risk of being unmet, writes activist and entrepreneur Steve DeAngelo in the New York Daily News.

Set up to fail

When it comes to licensing, DeAngelo says any legacy cannabis operator will have a huge difficulty meeting the basic criteria. Income tax returns, for example, are required to gain a license — something most of those hoping to gain entry to the legal system will have trouble producing.

“…legacy operators will be very reluctant to surface themselves and join the legal system unless they are confident that they will not be penalized for their past activities,” he writes.

Call for amnesty

One potential solution? An amnesty program, suggests DeAngelo, which would give any applicant a “fresh start.” Such a program would, for example, allow legacy operators to continue running their unregulated businesses while readying to transition to legal cannabis sales. 

“Legacy operators don’t just go away if they are left out of the legal system,” he advises, citing California’s enormous illicit cannabis market. “Instead, free from the costs of regulation and taxation, they outcompete the newcomers by selling at far lower prices.” 

Accelerate adult-use cultivation, too

DeAngelo also suggests that legacy cultivators and processors already have the small businesses that are already legal in the state. Why not get them growing for the legal market as soon as possible?

“Allowing legacy sellers to convert to legal operations also allows New York to get a head-start on generating tax revenues, which in turn can be reinvested in communities.”

Last week, DeAngelo was a speaker at our Business of Cannabis: New York event. Join our newsletter – Cannabis Daily – to find out all the latest about New York’s legalization efforts.

See our previous coverage of New York’s legalization effort:

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