Medical Marijuana Industry defeated legalisation in New York . How did that happen?
Medical Marijuana Industry defeated legalisation in New York . How did that happen?The cannabis industry’s equity problem has long been a ticking time bomb. This week it finally exploded.
In Albany, a legalization measure that once seemed as unstoppable as a locomotive ran completely off the rails. The push to include adult-use cannabis legalization in the New York Legislature’s 2019 state budget package officially died on Monday.
As Leafly’s Max Savage Levenson reported, death resulted from multiple causes—bickering over taxes, conservative lawmakers catching a case of cold feet, law enforcement pushback, even a corporate-backed plot to ban homegrow. But in the end, even the most ardent legalization advocates couldn’t defend the package’s weak tea equity measures.
Those same legislators warned months ago that there would be “no legalization without social equity.” Hat-tip to Leafly contributor Sara Brittany Somerset for surfacing that back in December. She quoted Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the majority leader of the New York State Assembly, who was very clear about what she needed to see in a legalization measure:
“Equity in a regulated adult use market starts with separating licenses, providing an affordable licensing process, offering low-interest loans, and prioritizing opportunities to people historically disenfranchised and imprisoned as a result of the war on drugs.”
As Somerset wrote: “The bottom line according to Peoples-Stokes: Adult-use marijuana will not be implemented in New York State if it is not inclusive of equity.” The majority leader was not joking.
But apparently others weren’t listening. Cannabis companies, dazzled by the prospect of adult-use legalization in a state with 20 million people, seemed only concerned about locking up licenses and monopolizing market share. They ignored the calls for equity clauses and criminal record expungement. They didn’t listen to experienced thought leaders like Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commissioner Shaleen Title or the leaders of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, both of whom have issued best-practices policy guidances that address these issues.
Result: Cannabis companies got neither their licenses nor adult-use legalization. In past years, legalization advocates were willing to back-burner social equity requirements in order to get legalization adopted. Just pass the measure, went the thinking. We can improve and perfect it later.
No more. We’ve seen what happens: no improvement, no perfection.
Here’s the new math in 2019. No equity = no marketplace.