A New York senator has filed a bill to make it so transgender and non-binary people can qualify as social equity applicants under the state’s marijuana law.
Sen. Jeremy Cooney (D) introduced the legislation in an attempt to resolve an “unintended consequence” of the adult-use law, which would currently “force certain individuals from choosing between their gender identity and receiving priority for a license,” the bill’s justification section states.
That’s because, as enacted, the marijuana law gives licensing priority to women-owned businesses, as well as other marginalized groups or communities most impacted by prohibition. The language around social equity for women creates inadvertent complications for the transgender and gender-nonbinary community.
For example, a person who was born biologically female and transitioned, or identifies as nonbinary, might need to decide between filling out an application based on the gender assigned at birth or miss out on equity benefits.
“This bill will include transgender and gender-nonbinary individuals in the social and economic equity plan giving them priority in licensing,” the legislation says. “Every New Yorker deserves the right to express and identify their gender as they choose.”
“The social equity aspect of the [Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act] is meant to uplift historically marginalized groups through economic opportunities in the cannabis industry and this bill furthers that effort,” it continues.
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The legislation, filed on Friday, has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee for consideration.
Currently, adults 21 and older can possess up to three ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of concentrates—and they can also smoke marijuana in public anywhere tobacco can be smoked—but there aren’t any shops open for business yet.
Under the law signed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) earlier this year, 50 percent of cannabis businesses licenses will be set aside for equity applicants.
The first licensed recreational marijuana retailers in New York may actually be located on Indian territory, with one tribe officially opening applications for prospective licensees in October.
In July, a New York senator filed a bill to create a provisional marijuana licensing category so that farmers could begin cultivating and selling cannabis ahead of the formal rollout of the adult-use program. The bill has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee.
Because the implementation process has been drawn out, however, one GOP senator wants to give local jurisdictions another year to decide whether they will opt out of allowing marijuana businesses to operate in their area—a proposal that advocates say is unnecessary and would create undue complications for the industry.
Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), who replaced Cuomo after he resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal, has repeatedly emphasized her interest in efficiently implementing the legalization law.
At a recent event, she touted the fact that she had quickly made regulatory appointments that had been delayed under her predecessor. “I believe there’s thousands and thousands of jobs” that could be created in the new industry, the governor said.
Meanwhile, New York’s Cannabis Control Board (CCB) held its first meeting last month, a key step toward implementing the state’s adult-use marijuana program.
Members of the board, who were appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, announced that medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed to sell flower cannabis products to qualified patients. The $50 registration fee for patients and caregivers was also permanently waived.
Earlier this month, regulators also approved rules for the state’s cannabinoid hemp program, notably clarifying that flower from the crop can be sold but delta-8 THC products are currently prohibited from being marketed.
Adding pressure to get the market up and running is the fact that regulators in neighboring New Jersey recently released rules for its adult-use marijuana program, which is being implemented after voters approved a legalization referendum last year.
For the first year of cannabis sales, the state is expected to see just $20 million in tax and fee collections. That will be part of an estimated $26.7 billion in new revenues that New York is expected to generate in fiscal year 2021-2022 under a budget that the legislature passed in April.
The state Department of Labor separately announced in new guidance that New York employers are no longer allowed to drug test most workers for marijuana.
Meanwhile, a New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to establish an institute to research the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.