The governor of New York announced the creation of a $200 million fund to support the social equity objectives of the state’s soon-to-be-launched legal cannabis marketplace.

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) unveiled her policy priorities for 2022 in her State of the State handbook, and it includes various commitments towards ensuring that “those from historically marginalized communities” will stand to benefit from the reform of New York’s marijuana laws. It also outlines broader drug policies aimed at reducing harm and supporting New York’s emerging hemp industry.

New York marijuana regulators are yet to approve cannabis business licenses, but the market is poised to rake in billions of dollars for the state’s coffers, and Hochul is keen to ensure these benefits are distributed equitably.

“In support of that goal, Governor Hochul will create a $200 million public-private fund to support social equity applicants as they plan for and build out their businesses,” the document reads. “Licensing fees and tax revenue will seed the fund and leverage significant private investment.”

After taking over from former-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Hochul stressed that implementing marijuana legalization in New York was a priority for her administration.

“While New York has committed to making its cannabis industry more equitable, this action will put that commitment into practice. New York will lead where many other states have fallen short,” the State of the State text continues. “The governor is focused on providing more than basic business supports and training for our future cannabis entrepreneurs, and this fund will provide direct capital and startup financing to social equity applicants as the State takes meaningful steps to ensuring that New York’s cannabis industry is the most diverse and inclusive in the nation.”

New York has a target of 50 percent of all marijuana business licenses to be issued to social equity applicants built into the marijuana legalization legislation signed into law by Cuomo last year. Social equity applicants are defined as those from communities most harmed by cannabis prohibition, economically-distressed farmers, women and veterans. A New York senator also recently introduced a bill that would allow gay, lesbian and bisexual people to qualify as social equity applicants.

Hochul also details her administration’s plan to help hemp farmers better understand federal regulations through extra hires of dedicated program staff to “better serve the regulated community.”

To help ensure farmers comply with federal requirements concerning THC concentrations in hemp, Hochul’s administration will train and certify more “private sampling agents to take regulatory samples, ensuring compliance with the federal standard for hemp of not more than 0.3 percent THC.”

New York will also establish a Division of Harm Reduction under the direction of the Office of Addiction Services which will “develop and incorporate harm reduction principles and strategies.”

The new division’s responsibilities will include increasing access to naloxone and buprenorphine, providing fentanyl test strips, organizing public awareness events and distributing sterile syringes.

The State of the State document doesn’t discuss the establishment of safe consumption sites for drug users, but New York City recently became the first US jurisdiction to authorize the use of such sites.

While marijuana reform advocates await the launch of cannabis sales in New York, the state regulators are busy finalizing the rules for the legal industry. Following the recent passage of an opt-out deadline, hundreds of jurisdictions across New York are set to permit legal marijuana sales.

state marijuana laws