NY Governor Announces Seeding Opportunity Initiative

There is a new initiative in New York allowing people with cannabis-related criminal offenses on their record to make the first adult-use cannabis sales in the state.

On Thursday, March 10, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the Seeding Opportunity Initiative, which would make adult-use sales possible in New York before the end of the year.

A press release states that the initiative will jump-start New York’s cannabis industry, guarantee support for equity applicants, and secure an early investment into communities impacted the most by cannabis criminalization.

Governor Hochul says New York State is making history by launching the first-of-its-kind initiative approach to the cannabis industry that takes a major step toward righting past wrongs.

According to Governor Hochul, the Cannabis Control Board’s (CCB) regulations will prioritize local farmers and entrepreneurs and create jobs and opportunities for communities that have been left out and left behind.

At a meeting on Thursday, CCB advanced two components of the Seeding Opportunity Initiative.

The first component advanced regulations for conditional adult-use retail dispensaries to public comment.

The Seeding Opportunity Initiative requires that the dispensaries be owned by equity-entrepreneurs with prior cannabis offenses and a background in owning and operating a small business.

According to the release, the equity-entrepreneurs will be the first to open businesses in New York State and establish the adult-use market.

As part of the second component, CCB approved a license application for hemp farmers wanting to grow adult-use cannabis in the coming spring.

The release states that Governor Hochul signed legislation in February to make the Adult-Use Conditional Cultivator License possible.

CCB designated March 15 as the opening date for the application portal.

CCB Chair Tremaine Wright says New York’s cannabis law sets a high goal for creating an equitable industry that puts New Yorkers first.

“The Seeding Opportunity Initiative puts us on a path for achieving that goal and hopefully models a way forward for reaching those goals while building a stable market,” says Wright. “I am thankful for the support of Governor Hochul and the Legislature, which made it possible for us to get this initiative off the ground quickly, establish a supply chain from our farmers to equity retailers, and generate the resources to help revitalize communities that were harmed by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition.”

The Seeding Opportunity consists of the Equity Owners Lead Program, the Farmers First Program, and the New York Social Equity Cannabis Investment Program.

The Equity Owners Lead Program puts eligible equity-entrepreneur applicants at the front end of the adult-use market.

Applications for the Program will open in the coming summer, with the first licenses distributed by the fall.

The Farmers First Program provides conditional adult-use cultivator licenses to eligible New York cannabinoid hemp farmers, giving them the first chance to grow cannabis for the adult-use market.

Farmers must abide by Office of Cannabis Management health, safety, and quality assurance standards and participate in sustainability and equity mentorship programs.

Eligible farmers will be able to grow cannabis during the 2022 season.

The $200 million New York Social Equity Cannabis Investment Program will use industry licensing fees and private equity to support dispensary development for equity-entrepreneurs with a conditional adult-use retail dispensary license.

Proposed by Governor Hochul in her FY 2023 Executive Budget, the social equity investment program would require the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) to provide leasing and construction support to dispensaries at prime locations.

DASNY would help dispensaries renovate their facilities to meet health, safety, and security requirements.

The proposal is currently under discussion with the New York Legislature.

OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander says the Seeding Opportunity Initiative puts farmers and equity entrepreneurs at the forefront of New York’s adult cannabis market launch.

“Thanks to the support of Governor Hochul and the action taken by the Board today, we’ve made a huge advancement in our efforts to prioritize New York’s small farmers, our equity entrepreneurs, and ultimately our goal to generate the resources that will support future equity applicants and drive investments into our communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition,” says Alexander. “We aren’t stopping here, and work is already underway across all license types to open access to capital and develop supporting networks to build an equitable New York Cannabis Industry and setup our small businesses for long-term success.”