On March 31, 2021, then Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), legalizing adult-use cannabis in New York state. S.B. 854-A (N.Y. 2021). MRTA was passed in an attempt to right past wrongs by the government, specifically involving minority groups and those members of minority communities negatively and disproportionately affected by prior cannabis prohibition.
MRTA directs the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) to prioritize social and economic equity applicants (Equity Applicants) with the goal of awarding fifty percent of adult-use cannabis licenses to Equity Applicants. MRTA §10(2). In New York, a social equity applicant is a person who is: (1) from a minority group, (2) a woman, (3) a disable veteran, (4) a farmer in financial distress and (5) those persons from communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drug. §87. The legislation aims to award licenses in a manner that considers small business opportunities, avoids market dominance, and “reflects the demographics of the state.” §10(2). The state has also set forth a desire to assist Equity Applicants succeed by way of “low-and-zero interest loans, reduced or waived fees and assistance in preparing applications.” Id.