Worker co-op responds to marijuana legalisation in New York

High Mi Madre welcomed the legalisation but said further work was needed to ensure equity and legacy co-ops can compete with other licence holders

A cannabis co-operative has welcomed a law change in New York state which legalises adult use of the the drug.

Last monht, state governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which establishes the Office of Cannabis Management, expands New York’s existing Medical Marijuana Program, establishes a licensing system, and creates a Social and Economic Equity Program encouraging individuals disproportionately impacted by cannabis enforcement to participate in industry.

The measure could bring in annual tax revenues of $350m and create 30,000 to 60,000 jobs.

“This is a historic day in New York – one that rights the wrongs of the past by putting an end to harsh prison sentences, embraces an industry that will grow the Empire State’s economy, and prioritises marginalised communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits,” said Mr Cuomo. 

“This was one of my top priorities in this year’s State of the State agenda and I’m proud these comprehensive reforms address and balance the social equity, safety and economic impacts of legal adult-use cannabis.”

Worker co-op High Mi Madre, which describes itself as a “womyn and femme of Color marijuana co-operative”, welcomed the legislation but said the changes did not go further enough.

“We may have great wins in this legislation including 10 licences, including a co-operative license to cultivate, process, and manufacture. However, co-ops cannot own a dispensary or social consumption lounge license,” High Mi Madre told the New York Network of Worker Cooperatives.

“If you acquire a dispensary license, you cannot obtain any of the other licenses, but can have three dispensary locations. We advocated for vertical integration for co-ops – from seed to sale – but it was not included in the bill.”

Related: Cannabis and co-ops, from farming to banking

The co-op said it would continue its advocacy efforts to make sure that equity and legacy co-ops can fully participate in the legal market and compete with other license holders

High Mi Madre suggested following the lead of Cambridge, Massachusetts and creating a moratorium on licensing for equity and legacy applicants. Another option favoured by the co-op is establishing a moratorium on licensing for economic empowerment applicants, a measure taken by the city of Cambridge.

“As we build toward abolitionist futures, the legalisation of marijuana is not enough to ensure our autonomy, dignity, and needs for healthcare are met,” the co-op added. “We must fight for the end of the war on drugs that commits violence against our communities, intentionally extracts wealth and actively seeks to create instability in our lives through epistemic racism to prevent BIPOC [black, indigenous, and other people of color] folks from thriving.

“In the words of Maya Angelou, ‘Still I rise.’ We will be joining the efforts of Drug Policy Alliance in fighting for the end of the drug war in NYC and beyond and are supporting sealing and expungement efforts in New York to ensure all folks affected by the prison industrial complex are able to fully regain autonomy and agency over their lives.”

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