Legislators in the Democrat-controlled state legalized the sale of recreational weed to those age 21 and older through a law called the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act that was enacted back on March 31, 2021, although the implementation was slow in coming.
The MRTA set a goal of awarding 50% of marijuana store licensing opportunities to “social and economic equity applicants.”
Under the law, this preference extends to “individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition, minority and/or women-owned businesses, distressed farmers, and service-disabled veterans.”
New York’s Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board have allegedly created a cannabis carve out, a so-called justice class, in which only applicants with a criminal history currently are eligible for the business go-ahead.
Bureaucrats are thus allegedly ignoring the other DEI categories required under the statute, thereby excluding disabled vets and others from the pot party.
According to the New York Post, “[S]o far, the first 300…licenses have been set aside solely for applicants found guilty of a pot-related charge or related to someone swept up before the drug’s legalization.”
Disabled U.S. Army vet Carmine Fiore, who chairs the Cannabis Association of New York’s Veterans Committee, told the Post that “The whole veterans community is in an uproar.”
In this context, Fiore maintained that “Only criminal applicants have been allowed to apply.”
He further asserted that “the OCM’s actions are not only biased and discriminatory against veterans, they are also potentially illegal” because regulations creating a conditional dispensary license for the favored group allow “ex-cons to ‘leapfrog’ disabled vets under the special license.”
As alluded to above, this social injustice arrangement is not set forth in the law itself, which suggests that regulators might have exceeded their authority. The conditional license arrangement also apparently enables ex-con entrepreneurs to bypass the initial financing and leasehold screening that applies to other applicant pools.
Democrat state Senator Jessica Scarcella-Spanton, who chairs a veterans-related committee notified Gov. Kathy Hochul in a draft letter that “We are concerned that the OCM is not following the MRTA as it is written.
“Those who have sacrificed to serve their country — especially those who have been injured because of their services or other worthy social equity groups — are currently being overlooked,” the senator asserted.
The OCM claims that it is reaching out to veterans groups.
The first retailer in New York to sell marijuana for adult recreational use opened in late December 2022.
Recreational use of marijuana has been approved in 21 states with the idea gaining traction as a way to generate tax revenue. The residual effects on society itself reman to be seen.