By NYS Senator Jeremy Cooney – Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) was historic because it was written with equity and social justice at its center. We know discriminatory drug laws disproportionately targeted Black and Brown communities. The district I represent is entirely in Monroe County where Black citizens are 16 times more likely to be arrested for a marijuana offense than white citizens.

I have written legislation to get us back to basics. Farmers need to get seeds in the ground. Without plant cultivation, we cannot create a new marketplace for adult-use recreational marijuana.

This bill, S7295, enables New York cannabis farmers to begin planting, so that the economic benefits of legalizing marijuana are not delayed for yet another growing season. The legislation would establish a provisional cultivator license for cannabis growers to begin the 18-month grow cycle. Without this step, we do not have a supply chain for cannabis in New York. Which means we do not have a new marketplace or the highly anticipated taxable revenue from its sale.

For communities that were over-policed and unjustly criminalized, legalizing marijuana is only the first step towards long overdue justice. We must also fulfill the promise of long overdue economic justice.

Like any farm product, we need to set up proper infrastructure to empower cannabis growers to get seeds in the ground, so that product can be grown, harvested, and reinvested into the community. While we wait for the NYS Office of Cannabis Management to become fully operational, we are breaking that promise to the same communities who must continue to wait for overdue investment.

We should be preparing for the first wave of tax revenue to jump-start the economy through community reinvestment. We could be generating wealth, rebuilding infrastructure, and investing in our future. The funding generated by the 40 percent state tax on recreational marijuana sales could change lives and transform communities, but instead we are waiting. It’s like finally getting to the good part of an intense movie, and then your streaming service starts to buffer.

As long as cannabis growers are waiting on government officials to create an Office of Cannabis Management, the estimated New York State cannabis market of $4.6 billion is unrealized revenue for businesses and an unfulfilled promise to New Yorkers. Entrepreneurial dreams are not realized, jobs are not created, and the community reinvestment we created in the MRTA is not being funded. Resources designed for education, workforce development, neighborhood revitalization, and addiction treatment are all paused.

None of this matters without the supply chain. We cannot do this without farmers putting seeds in the ground. New York must take this essential first step before we lose out on another growing season and break the promise we made not long ago.
NYS Senator Jeremy Cooney represents parts of the City of Rochester and the Finger Lakes Region. He is the co-chair of Marijuana Taskforce for the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus.