Mayor Eric Adams is earmarking nearly $5 million in his executive budget toward educating New Yorkers on how to enter the legal cannabis business — and he’s targeting would-be entrepreneurs in neighborhoods disproportionately affected by marijuana arrests in the past.
While Adams made the announcement on Wednesday, he hinted at introducing the proposal more than a month ago when he released his long-term plan to revitalize the city’s economy.
The budget still needs to be approved by the New York City Council, but based on previous statements, Speaker Adrienne Adams appears on board.
The mayor’s plan calls for several city agencies to scout for minority communities disproportionately affected by longstanding, low-level marijuana arrests to help crystallize the process in obtaining a state cannabis business license. These markets have historically lacked diversity when states set up legalized marijuana.
New York state lawmakers approved the legalization of cannabis in March 2021, allowing users to openly smoke in areas that currently allow cigarette consumption. As part of the law, the newly created Office of Cannabis Management and Cannabis Control Board, the industry regulators, pledged to award half its cannabis licenses to owners in Black and brown neighborhoods. The state gave municipalities until last December to opt out of allowing dispensaries and consumption of cannabis.
“We need to look at making people whole who experienced the over-aggressive, heavy-handed police practices around marijuana, and that’s what these dollars are going to go toward,” Mayor Adams said at an unrelated news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Data from 2019 shows the top five NYPD precincts with the most criminal court summonses for marijuana infractions occurred in the 44th, 42nd, and 46th in the Bronx and Brooklyn 77th and 75th. These precincts are largely home to Black and Hispanic residents.
Monies have also been earmarked for a media campaign informing New Yorkers on how to properly establish a dispensary business, a process that can exceed $250,000 in startup costs in other states, according to industry analysts at COVA. The city’s Economic Development Corporation is also prepared to help any would-be cannabis sellers into financing and acquiring real estate to begin their business, according to a mayoral press release.
Estimates from state officials show that New York can generate $1.25 billion in revenue sales from adult cannabis use over the next five years, with roughly 24,000 jobs generated in the coming years.
But even as Adams promotes the plan as a done deal, the executive budget — a response to the requests made by the New York City Council — still requires the councilmembers to weigh in. The mayor is expected to release his updated budget plan next week, which will then be followed by another round of Council hearings examining the line items.
While the chairs for the Council’s respective economic, consumer affairs and small business service committees have jointly praised the plan in the mayoral release, Speaker Adrienne Adams was quiet on the new proposal.
But a spokesperson for the speaker, Breeana Mulligan, directed comments the speaker previously made at a breakfast hosted by the Association for a Better New York last month. There, the speaker said any approach to establish “equitable business opportunities” needs to be “standardized for all emerging market opportunities.” That approach, she said, requires “investing in adequate business preparation support for historically harmed and marginalized small business owners and entrepreneurs.”
The budget takes effect July 1.