New York governor Kathy Hochul announced last week, on June 22, 2022, Wednesday, that it will be allocating $200 million towards the Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund. The said funding will reportedly be used towards leasing and providing access to up to 150 adult-use marijuana retail dispensaries in the state.

The news comes after a month or so after the Dormitory Authority for the State of New York (DASNY) has requested a fund manager to sponsor and manage the said amount.

Based on the announcement released by the governor’s office, the Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund is an initiative made possible through the collaboration of Governor Kathy Hochul as well as the New York State Legislature.

Cannabis Investment Fund to Support Budding Market in NY

Under the said initiative, social equity entrepreneurs are slated to highlight and make social equity entrepreneurs take part and succeed within the cannabis industry of the state. In particular, the funding and the whole program will only be made available to those who have been affected by the war on drugs and the existing laws on marijuana.

The Social Equity Cannabis Fund will help those affected and qualified individuals establish their retail shops and marijuana dispensaries within the area. Apart from providing establishment help, the funding also seeks to provide individuals with the assistance they need throughout the different parts of construction, including the building itself, the design, and the furnishing of spaces, notes WNBF.

According to MJ Biz Daily, this is an unprecedented move not only on New York’s part but also throughout the whole United States, particularly within the cannabis industry. The news site states that if the venture achieves great success in the field, this could pave the way for other states to jumpstart social equity programs as well.

Part of Hochul’s announcement covered her choosing the company to manage and sponsoring the $200 million fund. Hochul reportedly chose Social Equity Impact Ventures, LLC to carry this out. The company in question is a joint venture between Chris Webber and Lavetta Willis, revealing the New York governor’s announcement.

Apart from Webber and Willis, the announcement made by Governor Hochul last week reveals that the venture also has a partnership with a firm Seibert Williams Shank, founded by Suzanne Shank and currently managed by Bill Thompson as its chief administrative officer, reports the New York Post.

Together, these firms are expected to work hand in hand to raise and manage funds for the said initiative, notes the New York Post.

In a statement, Governor Hochul said, “Today, New York takes an important step forward in creating jobs and opportunity for those who, historically, have been disproportionately targeted for cannabis infractions. As we create a new industry in New York, I am proud to see real progress in addressing the economic needs of our future entrepreneurs.”

Of this partnership, Webber said, “I’m incredibly honored to work with New York’s esteemed officials to right the wrongs for individuals who were unjustly victimized by outdated cannabis policies. New York’s thoughtful and inclusive approach to establishing equity in the cannabis space and creating opportunities for those affected by the War on Drugs is truly unparalleled. Together, we look forward to starting the healing process within the community nationwide and it starts by giving aspiring entrepreneurs in this state the education, resources and training to thrive in the cannabis sector. Our hope is that New York’s holistic approach can be replicated in other markets and help accelerate the growth of underrepresented businesses across the country.”

Apart from announcing her chosen company, Governor Hochul also named new members to the Cannabis Advisory Board of New York.  All in all, Syracuse news notes that there are 13 members that make up the board, all of which are responsible for overseeing and managing the fund to help communities affected by the war on drugs.

Among the appointees named by Governor Hochul to the board include the following: Alejandro Alvarez; Joe Belluck; Dr. Junella Chin; Allan Clear; Dr. Chinazo Cunningham; Ibrahim Jamil Darden; Kathleen DeCataldo; Arthur A. Duncan II; Allan Gandelman; Dareth Glance; Ruth Hassel-Thompson; Gary Johnson; Nikki Kateman; Suzanne Miles-Gustave; Russell Oliver; Sarah Ravenhall; Chandra Redfern; Armando Rosado; Peter Schafer; and Scott Wyner.

According to Syracuse, Hochul was responsible for choosing seven members of the board. Meanwhile, Carl Heastie, New York State Assembly Speaker placed three in the position, as did Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a New York State senator.

Cannabis Retail Dispensaries

The board members will serve and cater to the needs of the cannabis industry together with the Office of the Cannabis Management.

Of these appointees, Tremaine Wright, Chairman of the Cannabis Control Board said, “These Cannabis Advisory Board members have unique and valuable work and life experiences that will make sure all New Yorkers have a voice in how New York’s cannabis marketplace is regulated, and how tax revenues are shared with community nonprofits.”

Of this collaboration and groundbreaking step for the state of New York, Governor Kathy Hochul has expressed immense pride in the initiative.

Besides Hochul, lieutenant governor Antonio Delgado said, “It is incumbent upon us to create a socially responsible cannabis industry here in New York State that ensures jobs and opportunity for minorities who have long been subject to unfair enforcement when it comes to cannabis use.”

“Today’s announcement will help ensure New York creates a fair and inclusive cannabis industry with equitable enforcement measures that provide equal opportunity to people of color,” continued Delgado in his statement.

Suzanne Shank, on the other hand, said that this move would help effect “the right approach” as it would “eliminate [e] barriers for equitable participation in this multi-billion-dollar industry,” notes the New York Post.

“The Cannabis Social Equity Investment Fund will be a key tool to help level the playing field during New York State’s licensing and siting of cannabis retail dispensaries across the state. This regulatory design will help disadvantaged entrepreneurs to compete fairly, continued Shank in her statement.

To further along with the initiative, MJ Biz Daily reports that a brokerage firm, CBRE Group, has been on the hunt for certain locations for the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.

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