New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. Credit: Official Portrait

Late last week, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced the Seeding Opportunity Initiative, putting social equity candidates first in line to make retail sales in the state.

The Governor is boasting a “first-in-nation” tag with this move, which is a strong effort to ensure the percentage of social equity operators in the state does not dip to the thresholds seen across the country.

“This is big,” said Nancy Udell, Director of Empire State NORML. “I can tell you that we are very happy about it, looking at what other states have done right and wrong.

“This has been done wrong in many states. [Social Equity] is being done first here.”

As detailed by the Office of Cannabis Management, the plan states the first adult use sales will be with products from New York cultivators and suggests sales “possible before the end of 2022”.

“We love to see it,” said Brendon Robinson, CEO of the Minority Cannabis Academy. “This is real social equity and hopefully other states will follow suit.

“It’s great to prioritize minorities, especially those who have served time for the same plant that so many others are profiting from.”

The social equity portion of the initiative for the first-round of conditional licensees will also provide candidates with renovated and/or retail-ready properties. These license applications are expected to open this summer, with conditional approval to be granted no later than the fall.

To be eligible for retail licenses, candidates must have a cannabis-related offense that occurred prior to the MRTA or have had a parent, spouse or child with an offense in the State of New York. They must also have experience operating a qualifying business in the state.

“No individual convicted of a marijuana offense, state or federal, especially those who have been incarcerated, should ever be in the back of he line to participate, whether it is a medicinal or recreational program,” said Eric Spencer, a social equity candidate with a hard-knocks story

The Cannabis Control Board also approved the adult use conditional cultivator licenses that Gov. Hochul signed back in February. The opening for that application portal will begin on Mar. 15 and would allow already-operating hemp farmers to grow cannabis.

“The best thing to do, is to do [social equity] first,” said Udell. “That way you know it’s done. They’re moving. Conditional licenses and funds, the state is teeing themselves up to get it moving.

“A lot of things are happening now and I think it could all come together quickly.”