New York is Finally Righting the Wrongs of a Failed War on Drugs

As much as the state of New York can't stand Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young, he was spitting bars when he said, "YOUR APOLOGY NEEDS TO BE AS LOUD AS THE DISRESPECT WAS."

Because it never is.



For decades, NY has been trapped in the dark ages, targeting an absurdly disproportionate number of Black and Brown citizens with tactics like stop-and-frisk. Their archaic approach to marijuana law enforcement made the state's arrest numbers look more Mississippi than Manhattan.

But the state of New York may be changing their tone when it comes to righting the wrongs of a failed war on drugs. After arresting nearly 30,000 people for marijuana-related misdemeanor offenses in 2017, the number dropped to just over 2,700 misdemeanors and felonies in 2020. The state decriminalized the plant in 2019 and legalized it for recreational use in March 2021.

New York was the 16th state to legalize cannabis, but will be the first to attempt to make amends for its previous transgressions against communities of color with regards to cannabis enforcement. In each of the other states where a legalized marijuana market has been opened up, licenses for retail cannabis shops and delivery services have essentially gone to the highest bidders, making it difficult for those affected most by the war on drugs to then legally profit from the evolution of legislation.

While many Black and Brown people still sat behind bars or carried records stained by weed offenses, white entrepreneurs were allowed to come into the legal cannabis industry and rake in millions. It was wrong, and New York thankfully recognizes that.

The Empire State will reserve the first 100-200 retail cannabis licenses for prospective business owners who were charged with cannabis crimes in the state or have a direct family member who was. This will allow the communities affected most by the now-disavowed marijuana laws to benefit from legalization before all others.

But the state didn't stop there, thankfully. Because real estate prices and the cost of opening a thriving retail cannabis operation are steep, Governor Kathy Hochul is earmarking $200 Million of her proposed budget to not only get these Black and Brown-owned cannabis businesses off the ground but ensuring they are successful and prepared to compete with larger operators who may enter the space later.

It's a promising approach from a state who has gotten it so wrong in the past. Finally, the apology is at least closer in volume to the disrespect.

We, can't wait to support all of these new businesses and we wish them all the success as they become the first legal cannabis dispensaries in the great state of New York.