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Most NYers Oppose Giving First Dispensary Licenses To Those With Pot Convictions

New York announced a groundbreaking new plan in March as it prepared to launch its new adult use cannabis program later this decade. It will reserve the first round retail licenses for people who have been convicted of pot-related charges or relatives of someone who has been convicted.

But while many social justice advocates applauded the measure, a majority of the state’s voters are not on board.

A poll out this week from Siena College found that 54 percent of voters in the Empire State “oppose ensuring that early licenses for marijuana retail stores go to those previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes, or their family members.” Only 33 percent are in favor of the proposal.

New York Republicans are most opposed to the idea, with 72 percent telling pollsters they were against it. Only 19% said that they support it.

Nearly equal split was seen among Democrats. 45 percent supported the idea while 43% opposed. The proposal was opposed by the majority (55%) of New York State independents.

“Giving first dibs on marijuana licenses to those previously convicted divides Democrats and New York City voters. Strong majorities of Republicans, independents, voters outside New York City, and white voters give it a thumbs down,” Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said in the survey’s analysis. “Latino voters support it by 12 points and Black voters by 11 points.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, announced the “the first-in-the-nation Seeding Opportunity Initiative” earlier this month, which her office said would ensure “an early investment into communities most impacted by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition.”

This initiative will award 100-200 adult-use cannabis dispensaries licenses either to an individual who was previously convicted for a marijuana-related offense or to the parent, guardian or child of an individual with a pot conviction.

“New York State is making history, launching a first-of-its-kind approach to the cannabis industry that takes a major step forward in righting the wrongs of the past,” Hochul said in a statement at the time. “The regulations advanced by the Cannabis Control Board today will prioritize local farmers and entrepreneurs, creating jobs and opportunity for communities that have been left out and left behind. I’m proud New York will be a national model for the safe, equitable and inclusive industry we are now building.”

In the announcement earlier this month, Hochul’s office said the initiative would be comprised of three different programs: the Equity Owners Lead Program, which will provide “a Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary License to eligible equity-entrepreneur applicants, putting them at the front-end of the adult-use market”; the Farmers First Program, which provides “an Adult-Use Conditional Cultivator License to eligible New York cannabinoid hemp farmers, giving them the first chance to grow cannabis for New York’s adult-use market”; and the New York Social Equity Cannabis Investment Program, a $200 million program proposed in Hochul’s budget that would “make funding available for equity entrepreneurs at the forefront of the adult-use cannabis market.”

Hochul, who took over as New York governor following the resignation of Andrew Cuomo in August, has made it a priority to jumpstart the state’s recreational cannabis program. In September, she completed appointments to the state’s Office of Cannabis Management shortly after taking office.

State officials expect recreational pot sales to start by the end the year. There are many signs that this industry will be a profitable one. According to a budget projection from Hochul’s office in January, New York expects to collect $1.25 billion in tax revenue from recreational pot sales over the next six years.