Weeding Out Opportunities for Social Equity if PA Legalizes Adult-Use Cannabis

Weeding Out Opportunities for Social Equity if PA Legalizes Adult-Use Cannabis

From New York to New Mexico, Social Equity has been a priority in legalizing Adult-Use Cannabis and the responsibility to right the wrongs induced by the War on Drugs falls squarely on the shoulders of the government. 

The difference between NY and NM is that New York sewed the seeds of social equity into the law and New Mexico deferred definition of social equity mechanisms to an advisory committee , spending the better part of a year polling, surveying and studying best practices, while giving multi-state operators and “Big Marijuana” a head start for growth. 

“Our studies show that 40% to 42% of all Adult-Use Cannabis will be derived from out-of-state purchases, particularly Texas,” Duke Rodriguez, CEO of Arizona-based Ultra Health, told the Santa Fe New Mexican.

With no cap on licenses and land ownership, legacy operators and disadvantaged entrepreneurs lack the capital and resources for start-up costs. According to the New Mexico Cannabis Control Division, NM has granted priority to Minority license holders (Black, Asian American, Native American, mixed race and other), representing 33% of the industry. And although it’s obvious that a head start for small farmers and minority owned small businesses is necessary in a market expected to reach $400 million annually within five years, there is concern that the NM industry is doing a disservice to the community by not explicitly laying it out in the legislation. 

Even with the progressive discussion about micro-licensing, co-ops and reinvesting 40% of cannabis tax into low income communities, New Mexico might have done better by offering social equity opportunities prior to the passage of its AUC legislation. 

In comparison, the New York law provides for automatic expungement for previous convictions that engage in “activities that are no longer criminalized.” New York is also the first state to offer initial dispensary licenses solely to entrepreneurs with marijuana convictions through the Seeding Opportunity Initiative. 

According to the official New York Cannabis Conversations website, “the Office of Court Administration have expunged approximately 300,000 records and suppressed another approximately 100,000 from background searches as they await expungement.” The initiative also offers access to funding and resources to help prop up these businesses in the long run.

For states like Pennsylvania, who have yet to adopt Adult-Use Cannabis legislation, we have the chance to learn from both NY and NM when implementing laws that can provide opportunities for minority communities harmed by the War on Drugs.

If you are interested in getting involved in this important work in Pennsylvania, please reach out to Tara Zrinski, P3 Campaign Director via email at Tara@alltogethernowpa.org.

To learn more about All Together Now PA’s Pot Profits for Pennsylvanians campaign, visit alltogethernowpa.org/p3