NYC mayor announces plan to jumpstart marijuana industry

Jared Maloney

New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced his plans to invest in the city’s emerging recreational marijuana industry during a press conference on April 20.

After then-New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act into law, New York City legalized the use of recreational marijuana on March 31, 2021. However, after a year since its signing, the sale of it has not begun.

Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2014, but the 2021 act made obtaining a referral for recreational usage from a qualified medical professional significantly easier.

With marijuana being easier to access and its usage being decriminalized, Adams is aiming to use the marijuana businesses so the city can potentially become a leader in the retail marijuana market. This plan would potentially allow New York to compete with states where marijuana is sold recreationally, such as New Jersey, which started sales on April 21.

Adams committed $5 million in his executive budget to help entrepreneurs and community leaders build safe, productive marijuana dispensaries, as well as navigate the new licensing regulations.

“The cannabis industry could be a major boon to our economic recovery — creating new jobs, building wealth in historically underserved communities, and increasing state and local tax revenue,” Adams said in the news conference.

The recreational marijuana industry is expected to generate nearly $1.3 billion in its first year and support 19,000 to 24,000 jobs within three years. This measure specifically targets entrepreneurs in minority communities, which have been both disproportionately targeted for marijuana-related arrests and underrepresented in the development of legal retail business.

“Ensuring small businesses are at the center of the regulated cannabis industry will fuel our city’s recovery and advance economic equity,” Kevin D. Kim, the commissioner for the city’s Department of Small Business Services, said in the news conference.

The Office of Cannabis Management, which was established in the 2021 act, will oversee marijuana sales in the city. It must award at least half of its cannabis licenses to owners operating in majority Black and Brown neighborhoods.

The city has also invested in a media campaign to inform aspiring marijuana retail owners how to start and operate their businesses. The NYC Economic Development Corporation is also gearing up to help new businesses finance and acquire real estate for their business.

While Adams is confident in the industry’s success, New York City Councilmembers have not yet confirmed that this measure in the executive budget has passed.

As of April 25, Adams is expected to release the updated budget soon, at which point council members will have the opportunity to review and vote upon individual line items.

The measure has been jointly praised by the council’s Committee on Small Business, Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business Learning and Committee on Economic Development. However, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams has said little on the proposal. If passed, the budget will take effect on July 1.

Efforts to legalize the sale and use of marijuana in the city appear to have broad support from the general public, with 61% of residents for its legalized sale, 30% opposed and 9% undecided

This mirrors a longstanding trend in the United States, where a majority of citizens support the legalization of marijuana at a federal level, with 35% saying they currently use marijuana recreationally, according to reporting by CBS News.

Despite its long wait at New York retailers, recreational marijuana is just another step closer from being legally accessible for purchase.