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New York Senator Files Bill to Include Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual People in Social Equity

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Following another recent move to include transgender and nonbinary people to qualify as social equity applicants under New York cannabis law, a New York senator is looking to expand social equity opportunities to the greater LGBTQ community, allowing gay, lesbian and bisexual people to qualify as applicants, according to a report from Marijuana Moment.

Senator Jeremy Cooney (D), who also introduced the previous bill for trans and nonbinary people, introduced the new bill last week. Cooney is also behind other recent cannabis reform proposals related to tax benefits and licensing.

New York’s social equity cannabis law currently gives licensing priority to women-owned businesses and other marginalized groups and organizations who have been affected by prohibition and the War on Drugs.

The state’s former Governor Andrew Cuomo signed recreational cannabis into law about nine months ago, making New York the 15th state to legalize recreational cannabis. The state also became the first in the union to prohibit testing most employees for cannabis and are allowing cannabis smoking in public anywhere tobacco can be smoked.

Adults are currently able to possess and publicly consume cannabis, though retail sales implementation is still in progress. It’s been a drawn out process so far, with Governor Kathy Hocul (D), who replaced Cuomo amid a sexual harassment scandal, reinforcing her intent to expedite the implementation of the state’s cannabis program.

Recently Hochul’s administration said, even though they are moving “swiftly” and working “expeditiously” on full legalization, they can’t say when New Yorkers will be able to legally buy cannabis in the state and that the mid-to-late 2022 timeline relayed might not hold up.

Cooney said, in the meantime, he aims to ensure that the New York equity provisions are as inclusive as possible.

“I am proud to introduce legislation to include members of our lesbian, gay and bisexual community for priority licensure in the new adult-use recreational cannabis market,” the senator told Marijuana Moment. “When New York State legalized adult-use recreational marijuana we made a commitment to addressing the discrimination and injustice caused by the War on Drugs.”

He continued, referencing that social justice and social equity are embedded through the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act, citing the legislation designed to uplight historically marginalized groups through economic opportunities in the booming industry.

“We are committed to working to ensure we are meeting our equity licensing goals so that New York creates the most inclusive cannabis economy in the nation,” he added.

New York’s legalization law deems that at least 50 percent of cannabis businesses must go to equity applicants.

“This state has recognized that discrimination on the basis on sexual orientation is a violation of human rights law,” the justification section of the bill says. “The social equity aspect of the MRTA is meant to uplift historically marginalized groups through economic opportunities in the cannabis industry and this bill furthers that effort.”

Cooney’s last bill, adding trans and nonbinary people to the equity pool, was also to amend a language issue that could create problems specifically for those in the trans and nonbinary community. Essentially, a trans man or a nonbinary person who was assigned female at birth would need to purposely misgender themselves as female to qualify for social equity as a “woman,” or otherwise miss out on those equity benefits. 

That legislation also says, “This bill will include transgender and gender-nonbinary individuals in the social and economic equity plan giving them priority in licensing. Every New Yorker deserves the right to express and identify their gender as they choose.”

The bill qualifying gay, lesbian and bisexual people for New York’s social equity program has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee for consideration.

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