New York cannabis will “unlock new levels of innovation, prosperity and joy”

8 mins read

Leafly’s CEO, Yoko Miyashita, opened last week’s Business of Cannabis: New York with her keynote speech.

Setting the tone for the rest of the day, Miyashita’s speech focussed on the importance of building a socially equitable market and learning from the legal markets that have come before.  

“For all of our lives cannabis has been positioned as an enemy. As a divider. But we know that’s not true, it’s a uniter.”

Read full opening keynote below.

Yoko Miyashita: “Leafly is right at the center of an amazing community. We want to create a community that’s safe, welcoming and empowering for everyone, whether you’re a medical patient, a recreational consumer, a grower, a brand, a policy maker, or a regulator. 

This event, Business of Cannabis: New York, is in a special place, particularly this year in 2022. A year when so much has happened in the cannabis space. A year when so much has been promised, and some of those promises have been delivered. In a year, that will have almost certainly cemented New York City’s place as the global cannabis capital. We need to truly appreciate where we are in this moment in time, in this place.

We need to go back 10 years, almost to the day, to 2012, in Leafly’s home state of Washington, where the first successful ballot initiative legalizing adult recreational use in the US was passed in their general election. The same thing happened on the same day in Colorado. Combined, these two initiatives suddenly gave nearly nine million people access to safe legal cannabis. That’s roughly the population of this very city, all five boroughs that we’re gathered in today. To some, 10 years might seem like a long time, to others it’s a short decade. For those of us in the industry, it’s very much both.

Regardless of how you look at it, here we are, now, dozens of ballot initiatives later, with more people and with safe and legal access.  America’s largest, and best city, is on the road to a well-regulated and functioning cannabis industry, an industry that is vibrant, safe and an economic engine. New Yorkers are trailblazers. You were all influential changemakers, who understand something as big as cannabis. Legalization takes creativity, listening and urgency. New Yorkers know that time is of the essence to get a sensible regulated market up and running. To get more stores licensed, to help them open, to make sure supply is there.

And perhaps the biggest driver for expediency is to discourage the illicit market, because time after time, state after state, we have seen that legal markets cannot compete with thriving illicit competitors. We see this in California where high taxes, lack of enforcement and widespread opting out have helped a thriving illicit market account for the majority of cannabis sales today. But for New York, it’s not too late to get this right, and benefit from the hard lessons learned in California. All of our collective efforts will be meaningless unless we encourage and incentivize local communities and towns to opt in to legal cannabis.

Because opting out is akin to supporting illicit trade and we need to frame it that frankly. As business owners, investors, founders. As people who believe deeply in legal cannabis, we want this market to reach its full potential. We can do that by listening, by watching what others are doing in other states and other countries, and by putting some of the best minds and novel thinking to some of the most vexing issues of the industry. That’s why we’re here today. We want to help New York become the first state to get social equity right, the first time.

While we are truly in awe of the dedication and patience that policy makers and regulators have shown in addressing this complex problem head on, we also advocate for safety and fairness across the industry. Whether that be safe products and fair prices for consumers, or safe working conditions and fair wages for all cannabis workers. 

And finally, we believe that New York’s cannabis market will unlock new levels of joy, innovation and prosperity for everyone involved, from patients to consumers to businesses. For all of our lives cannabis has been positioned as an enemy. As a divider. But we know that’s not true, it’s a uniter. It brings communities together, if it’s done right. And that’s perhaps why this is so critical. This is our time to get it right.

I say it almost every time I speak. It is such a privilege to be a part of that story. And it is such a profound responsibility. A responsibility to those who have spent decades to get us to this moment. A responsibility to the cannabis consumers, who find so much relief in this magical plant. A responsibility to those whose lives have been upended by prohibition and to the communities impacted.

Leafly is here as this very strong proponent for getting it right. And I thank you so very much for making it a priority too. Thank you.”

We are proud to have had Leafly as our Headline Partners for a second year. Leafly and our other partners make it possible for us to bring the community together and shape the future of cannabis in New York, and globally. We’ll be returning to the New York Academy of Medicine on 4 October 2023, register your Super Early Bird Tickets now.

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