Using the occasion of her first State of the State address to highlight the plan, New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s administration said that the new, lucrative industry should consider those living in less privileged areas.
“New York’s legalized cannabis industry is in development, with the State expecting to issue licenses for adult recreational use. But the rise of what is estimated to be a $4.2 billion industry must create opportunities for all New Yorkers, particularly those from historically marginalized communities,” the governor’s office said in a handbook detailing her proposals for the coming year.
Hochul, who became New York’s first female governor in August after her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, resigned amid scandal, gave her State of the State address on Wednesday.
“In support of that goal, Governor Hochul will create a $200 million public-private fund to support social equity applicants as they plan for and build out their businesses,” the handbook continued. “Licensing fees and tax revenue will seed the fund and leverage significant private investment.”
Since taking office, Hochul has been vocal in her desire to get the state’s legal pot program off the ground and running. A spokesperson for Hochul said in August that nominating “individuals with diverse experiences and subject matter expertise, who are representative of communities from across the state, to the Cannabis Control Board is a priority” for the new governor.
In September, Hochul made a pair of appointments to the board of Office of Cannabis Management, which has been tasked with “[creating and implementing] a comprehensive regulatory framework for New York’s cannabis industry, including the production, licensing, packaging, marketing and sale of cannabis products.”
The two positions had been left unfilled, typifying the lack of progress that had been made on the new cannabis law since it was signed by Cuomo last spring.
“New York’s cannabis industry has stalled for far too long—I am making important appointments to set the Office of Cannabis Management up for success so they can hit the ground running,” Hochul said at the time of the appointments.
That same month, Hochul announced that New York lawmakers had finally confirmed the appointment of Tremaine Wright as Chair of New York’s Cannabis Control Board (CCB) and Christopher Alexander as Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM).
“One of my top priorities is to finally get New York’s cannabis industry up and running—this has been long overdue, but we’re going to make up for lost time with the Senate confirmation of Tremaine Wright as Chair of the Cannabis Control Board and Christopher Alexander as Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management,” Hochul said in a statement at the time.
In the handbook put out by her office this week, Hochul’s administration said that the $200 million fund will help the state meet its goal of awarding 50 percent of licenses for cannabis business to “social equity candidates,” which include “individuals from impacted communities, minority- and women-owned businesses (MWBEs), distressed farmers, justice-involved individuals, and service-disabled veterans.”
In addition, the administration said that New York will “will create a State-run business incubator to further support equity applicants.”
“While New York has committed to making its cannabis industry more equitable, this action will put that commitment into practice. New York will lead where many other states have fallen short,” the book stated. “The governor is focused on providing more than basic business support and training for our future cannabis entrepreneurs, and this fund will provide direct capital and startup financing to social equity applicants as the State takes meaningful steps to ensuring that New York’s cannabis industry is the most diverse and inclusive in the nation.”
New York officially legalized weed last March, when Cuomo signed a bill into law. While dispensaries likely won’t open their doors until next year, many parts of legalization, including possession and public consumption, took effect immediately.