Categorized | Bronx Neighborhoods

Marijuana Arrestees Bid for New York’s First Legal Dispensary Licenses

As New York State prepares to take on legal marijuana sales by handing out dispensary licenses, it’s tasked one organization – the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) – with making the process equitable.

The OCM’s plan: a program called CUARD, which will give out the state’s first 150 licenses to “justice involved” individuals who have received marjiuna-related criminal charges.

“The program itself is the first in the nation of its kind,” said Damian Fagan, the OCM’s chief equity officer. “Cannabis licensing applications can be very, very complex, but for CUARD we’re trying to make it straightforward.”

Accepted CUARD applicants will receive between $500,000 and $1.5 million each to get their dispensary started, pulling from a $200 million fund. Around 25 of the licenses will be given to non-profit organizations that employ justice-involved members, though only individuals who apply are eligible for the cash bonus.

Licenses will be doled out based on geography, with applicants being categorized by where they want to open a dispensary and not their home residence. Brooklyn, for example, has 19 open CUARD spots to apply for, while Mohawk Valley has two. Applicants are able to list up to five preferred locations.

The criteria to be accepted goes beyond having a marijuana charge on your criminal record. Applicants must also prove they’ve owned at least 10% of a business for two years, according to the program’s website. Each application also costs $2,000, a non-refundable fee that needs to be paid in full before the application is formally reviewed.

Applications for CUARD opened on Aug. 25 and closed Sept. 25. 

The organization has yet to release its full application details, but put out a tweet Wednesday saying it received 903 applications in total.

The Bronx Cannabis Hub, a cannabis justice organization created by a group of Bronx public defenders, says it helped over 500 people fill out applications in the Bronx alone, where just 11 of the 150 licenses will be awarded, though just around 70 of the 500 people met the complete qualifications to submit their application.

The 150 CUARD licenses are just the first step in the OCM’s larger vision for the budding New York dispensary industry. The move by New York state lawmakers to legalize cannabis is expected to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue once legal dispensaries are up and running.

“New York consumes a lot of cannabis, so that means we need to grow a lot of cannabis and we need to have enough retail stores to meet that demand,” said Fagon. “So we’re looking at thousands of licenses for sure over the next three to five years.”

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