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

A new poll shows a majority of voters are against the state’s recently announced policy to award the first 100-200 licenses to individuals previously convicted of weed-related offenses.

New York unveiled a pioneering new plan earlier this month as it prepares to launch its new adult-use cannabis program later this year, with the first round of retail licenses reserved for individuals previously convicted of a pot-related charge, or who have relatives with a cannabis conviction.

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.

The opposition is most pronounced among New York Republicans, 72 percent of whom told the pollsters that they are against the idea. Only 19 percent of Republicans said they back it.

Among Democrats, the proposal produced a near-even split: 45 percent said they support the idea, while 43 percent oppose. A majority of New York state independents, 55 percent, also said they are against the proposal.

“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 Gov. 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.”

Under the initiative, the first 100-200 licenses for adult-use pot dispensaries would be awarded to either an individual previously convicted of a weed-related offense, or a parent, guardian, child, spouse or dependent 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.

The state expects recreational pot sales to begin by the end of the year, and all signs are pointing to a lucrative industry. 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.

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