How New York Cannabis Legalization Prioritizes Equity

By Simon Malinowski, The Fresh Toast on

Published in Cannabis Daily

The CCB and OCM will need to clarify critical components of the MRTA’s provisions benefiting social and economic equity applicants. For example, the MRTA provides that one component of evaluating applicants will be that “the applicant possesses or has the right to sufficient land, buildings, and equipment to properly carry on the activity described in the application or has a plan to do so if qualifying as a social and economic equity applicant.” On its face, including the “plan” alternative creates a needed exception to the requirement that applicants must secure a physical location before submitting their license application.

The MRTA’s retail license requirements prohibit issuing a license “for any premises, unless the applicant shall be the owner thereof, or shall be able to demonstrate possession of the premises within thirty days of final approval of the license through a lease, management agreement, or other agreement giving the applicant control over the premises, in writing, for a term not less than the license period.”

For a real estate market as expensive and competitive as New York (particularly New York City), buying or leasing retail space before a license is approved will likely be a difficult requirement for social and economic equity applicants to meet. The CCB should confirm whether the “plan” exception applies to retail social and economic equity license applicants.

Beyond the MRTA’s express provisions, the CCB will be able to use geographically targeted licenses to help the neighborhoods and communities most impacted by the pandemic.

The MRTA empowers the CCB to regulate and oversee New York’s cannabis industry by giving the CCB “sole discretion to limit, or not limit, the number of registrations, licenses and permits of each class to be issued within the state or any political subdivision thereof[.]” Implicit in the MRTA’s mandate is that the CCB create requirements that prioritize economically disadvantaged areas. In the shadow of the COVID pandemic and New York’s significant budget deficit, the CCB should include the neighborhoods and communities most negatively affected by the COVID pandemic in its social and economic equity mandate.

One effective course of action would be to ensure that a sufficient number of licenses (specifically retail dispensary and on-site consumption licenses) are allocated to economically distressed areas. Both residential and commercial areas will be livened by increased foot traffic from locals and tourists, and neighboring businesses will likely see increased patronage.


The MRTA is forecasted to accelerate economic recovery by generating approximately $3.5 billion a year in revenue, while also helping to mitigate social and economic wrongs. New York will soon become a leader in the cannabis industry.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Law360 on April 5, 2021.

Simon Malinowski is an attorney at Harris Bricken. This story was originally published on the Canna Law Blog and reposted with permission.

The Fresh Toast is a daily lifestyle platform with a side of cannabis. For more information, visit

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