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New York Will Give Cannabis Retail Licenses to Those Previously Convicted of Cannabis-Related Crimes

Photo Credit: Brittainy Newman, The New York Times

For decades, the United States has waged its “War on Drugs” on Black and brown people. The government has used the presence of illegal substances as a way to justify the never-ending terrorization of minority neighborhoods. And the most common among these drugs is, of course, Marijuana, a plant that has been criminalized since the 1930s.

But in 2022, the state of New York is beginning to pull out of the War on Drugs, starting with the legalization of recreational marijuana. More than that, New York is looking to financially uplift those who have suffered under the old laws by granting the first few hundred cannabis retail licenses to those convicted of cannabis-related crimes or their family. State lawmakers hope this action will help right some historical wrongs and pump revenue into disenfranchised communities.

“We’re taking the harder path and its one that no state has done before,” explained the executive director of New York’s Office of Cannabis Management, Chris Alexander. “Instead of opening our market with the same existing operators who are dominating the national space, we’ve instead decided to put those who have been most impacted at the center of what we are building here.”

With enrollment taking place this summer, people of color who were made felons simply by possessing weed will soon be made into business owners in one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Though a few hundred licenses is almost nothing considering the Empire State’s population of millions, it’s a clear instance of elected officials working to undo the harm caused in America’s dark past. And despite us having a long way to go, we should still take time to appreciate these first steps toward a better future.

As the news of this historic move broke, a New York man formerly convicted on marijuana charges had this to say about the decision.

“As a person you feel down, a little bit defeated, like ‘Oh, I got a stain on my name. Now, that stain is actually the same thing that can help you.”


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