Gov. Cuomo’s new plan for legalized pot calls for delivery services, $100M equity fund

Waiting for the Green Light

A man smokes a joint during a demonstration for the decriminalization of cannabis. (Photo by THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)

ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC/WTEN) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced 30-day amendments to the proposal for a comprehensive adult-use cannabis program in New York state.

Specifically, these amendments will detail how the $100 million in funding will be allocated and enable the use of delivery services.

Additionally, it will refine which criminal charges will be enforced regarding the improper sale of cannabis. This will attempt to further reduce the impact on communities hit hardest by the war on drugs.

MORE | Waiting for the Green Light: New York state’s push to legalize recreational marijuana

“As we work to reimagine, rebuild and reopen New York, we’re taking every opportunity to address and correct decades of institutional wrongs to build back better than ever before,” Governor Cuomo said. “We know that you cannot overcome a problem without first admitting there is one. Our comprehensive approach to legalizing and regulating the adult-use cannabis market provides the opportunity to generate much-needed revenue, but it also enables us to directly support the communities most impacted by the war on drugs by creating equity and jobs at every level, in every community in our great state.”

Allocation of $100 Million Cannabis Social Equity Fund

The governor says social and economic equity are the bedrock of his proposal to legalize cannabis for adult-use. And, as part of that, the proposal includes a $100 million dollar fund to help revitalize communities that have been most harmed by the war on drugs.

Through this fund, qualified community-based nonprofit organizations and local governments would apply for funding. This funding will support a number of different community revitalization efforts, including, but not limited to:

  • Job placement and skills services
  • Adult education
  • Mental health treatment
  • Substance use disorder treatment
  • Housing
  • Financial literacy
  • Community banking
  • Nutrition services
  • Services to address adverse childhood experiences
  • Afterschool and child care services, system navigation services
  • Legal services to address barriers to reentry
  • Linkages to medical care, women’s health services and other community-based supportive services

The grants may also be used to further support the social and economic equity program.

Under the amended proposal, the Department of State would allocate the funding, through grants administered by Empire State Development Corporation in collaboration with various state departments. Final allocations and administration of funding would also depend on approval from the Division of the Budget.

Enabling the Use of Delivery Services

The legalization of cannabis is expected to play an important role in helping rebuild New York’s economy following the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Legalization is projected to create more than 60,000 new jobs and spur $3.5 billion in economic activity while generating an estimated $350 million in tax revenue once fully implemented.

Cannabis legalization also has the potential to have a significant economic benefit on distressed areas in New York, providing employment opportunities for all levels of the workforce. Delivery services offer a low-cost entry point into the industry.

Recognizing this, the Governor is permitting delivery services as a way to open up access to this new industry even further so more New Yorkers can participate as it grows. As part of this, local governments would have the opportunity to opt out from delivery services occurring within their jurisdiction.

Criminality of Improper Sales

When establishing a new product market, there will be attempts by some to skirt rules and commit fraud for financial gain. This makes it important to ensure that penalties are carefully calibrated to make sure that all those who wish to participate are operating equally.

Cannabis, however, adds another complicating factor to this dynamic – years of previous policies have disproportionately impacted communities of color. As such, under the Governor’s amended proposal, specific penalties will be reduced as follows:

  • Criminal sale in the third degree (sale to under 21 year old) will be made a class A misdemeanor
  • Criminal sale in the second degree (sale of over 16 ounces or 80 grams of concentrate) will be made a class E felony
  • Criminal sale in the first degree (sale of over 64 ounces or 320 grams of concentrate) will be made a class D felony

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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