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Cannabis Licensing Hub Opens in the Bronx

On Sunday, Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader joined New York advocates and policymakers for the opening of the Bronx Cannabis Hub. This community centre provides resources to residents who are interested in legal cannabis. Schumer introduced the much anticipated bill last week to legalize federal marijuana.

“This cannabis hub should serve as a model,” Schumer said at Sunday’s opening. “Not just to New York City and not just to New York State. Let there be hubs like this throughout the country.”

Bronx Cannabis Hub provides resources for Bronx residents who are suffering from decades of harmful cannabis enforcement policies. The Bronx Defenders (a non-profit public defense organization that represents low-income Bronx residents in the legal process) is creating the centre. In partnership with The Bronx Community Foundation, the center will be a joint project. Schumer was not the only one who attended the launch of The Cannabis Hub. Also, New York State Senator Gustavo Rivera and Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson were there, as well other community leaders, advocates for cannabis policy reform, and Bronx residents.

Legalization of Cannabis: Social Equity

New York’s 2021 law that legalized adult-use cannabis, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), includes social equity provisions to ensure that members of communities disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs have a path to business ownership in the regulated cannabis industry.

“As public defenders, we have seen first-hand the impact marijuana criminalization and its racist enforcement by the NYPD has had on the people in the Bronx,” Justine Olderman, executive director of The Bronx Defenders, said in a statement to Chronic News. “For decades, a single marijuana arrest could result in a person losing their job, healthcare, home, and even separation from their children and deportation from their families.”

At Sunday’s launch, Drug Policy Alliance executive director Kassandra Frederique said the new resource center in the Bronx is “a true community resource supporting social equity in New York’s legal cannabis landscape.”

“During the decade-long fight to pass the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act we were clear that the people and communities most impacted by devastating enforcement of the marijuana arrest crusade should be those to benefit from the legal industry,” said Frederique. “The Bronx Cannabis Hub will be a crucial part of fulfilling that shared vision and opening up opportunities and avenues for community members – especially those who have been directly impacted – to thrive in New York’s new green era.”

Prohibition’s Harms: A Solution

The MRTA contains social equity provisions. These include an automatic expungement or a 40% investment in cannabis taxes for communities disproportionately harmed from marijuana prohibition, and equity in licensing cannabis businesses. New York Office of Cannabis Management currently is drafting regulations to the program. State officials announced today that the 100-200 first cannabis retailer licenses will go to applicants who meet the criteria for social equity.

“Communities of color in The Bronx have suffered disproportionately from the harms of cannabis prohibition, from arrest and incarceration to job loss and eviction,” said Desmon Lewis, co-founder of the Bronx Community Foundation. “The Bronx Community Foundation is proud to partner with The Bronx Defenders on The Bronx Cannabis Hub, a first-of-its-kind initiative that will right some of these historic wrongs, by helping our communities to participate in the new, legal cannabis industry. In doing so, The Hub will further The Foundation’s goals of advancing neighborhood stability, solving systemic and institutional challenges, and building generational wealth.”

Bronx Cannabis Hub, in collaboration with Cristina Buccola, a cannabis lawyer, will launch a clinic. With the support of the New York Cannabis Project and pro bono firms, the clinic will assist qualified candidates with their licensing processes and develop educational programming.

“Now that cannabis is legal, a new economy is taking shape, and the communities most harmed by this failed drug war must be at the forefront,” Olderman added. “We are proud to join The Bronx Community Foundation and our other partners today to launch The Bronx Cannabis Hub, a new resource that will provide critical training, guidance, and legal support to turn historical harm into economic opportunity.”