May 31, 2022
Greetings to Chair Wright and Board Members for the New York State Office of Cannabis Management (NYS-OCM). Stash Queens, Inc. is a collective of five Black women launching a cannabis venture in the emerging New York market. Our goal is to attain a cannabis business license to create an adult-use dispensary that empowers consumers to access high-grade cannabis products through an elevated customer experience in Brooklyn, NY that is rooted in community, wellness, and opportunity. Our team is committed to building a welcoming space in partnership with local stakeholders and cannabis industry leaders who emphasize the tenets of providing quality products, operating with integrity, and championing true social equity and participation for aspiring businesses like ours. We appreciate the opportunity to weigh in on the conditional regulations for retail dispensaries because we believe there are changes that could be made to encourage aspiring operators to have a more equitable chance at success.
As New York’s recreational market is still developing, we commend NYS-OCM for looking to future operators for input on amendments and changes that respond best to the needs of businesses and the public. New York is in a great position to democratize a business process that gives small businesses every opportunity possible to succeed in the cannabis industry and New York has the benefit of watching where other states have fallen short. To that end, there are areas of the proposed conditional regulations that we believe, if addressed, could create better pathways for applicants who fall under the “justice-impacted” designation and other Black women owned small businesses like ours. Specifically, we would like to propose the following recommendations:
1. Expand the definition of “justice impacted” individuals to better reflect the lived experiences of Black and Brown families impacted by the war on drugs.
2. Use a broader lens to assess the business acumen and entrepreneurial capacity of applicants.
3. Prioritize applicants with ties to the community in which they look to operate.
Defining Justice Impacted
Stash Queens, Inc. is fighting for regulations that reflect the lived experiences of many Black and Brown families. Our communities live intergenerationally with our siblings, grandparents, in-laws, aunts, uncles, and cousins, both biological and chosen kin. The proposed regulations limit the definition of a justice impacted applicant to those who have personally been convicted of a cannabis offense in the state of New York or parent, legal guardian, child, spouse, or legal dependent with a conviction. If one has lived with multiple family members pooling together financial and communal resources, and then a household member is convicted of a cannabis offense, it will have reverberating impacts on the financial history of multiple generations of people under one roof. Beyond just the extended networks of family living within a home, the impacts of losing financial resources or your freedom due to a conviction can ripple out for others within the family web with everyone having to adjust to ensure those left behind have what they need to continue surviving. We believe the definition of a close family member as proposed in the conditional regulations is too limiting and does not reflect the lived experiences of Black and Brown families living in community with each other.
We recommend that any family member or resident living within a household that has
been convicted or impacted because of a cannabis offense should have priority under the proposed regulations.
Qualifying Professional Experiences
We commend the objective of the requirement in the draft regulations that an applicant with
51% ownership stake must have held, for a minimum of two years, at least ten percent
ownership interest in, and control of, a qualifying business, which means a business that had
net profit for at least two of the years the business was in operation. NYS-OCM wants licensees to be successful and this could be a way to demonstrate capacity to run a profitable business. However, this requirement will exclude countless justice impacted applicants who are capable of leading a successful cannabis business. We believe that NYS-OCM assess capacity through a broader lens and expand the qualifications to demonstrate this capacity. Otherwise, the state will miss out on the ingenuity and talent of new entrepreneurs that will help grow New York’s cannabis industry into the most successful and equitable in the country.
We recommend that NYS-OCM consider other qualitative experiences such as
participation in advanced training programs, professional recommendations/references,
and job history that may also allow applicants to demonstrate their qualifications.
Prioritizing Community & Small Business
The success of smaller retail dispensaries in New York will require grit and determination on the part of owners, but will be most successful with measures that ensure parity in the market. One of the recent concerns we have seen take place in neighboring New Jersey surrounds the decision to allow medical dispensaries to convert to recreational adult use sales before the remainder of the marketplace. Black and Brown entrepreneurs in New Jersey have had to play operational “catch up” to the medical dispensaries to create a solid and recognizable foothold in the market which harms social equity business owners before they can even turn the lights on.
Without prioritizing local business, there is a real risk for those who are of the community to be locked out from the incredible opportunities of this new industry, mirroring the gentrification patterns we have seen repeated many times before. NYS-OCM has the opportunity to ensure businesses with local ties can continue to make meaningful investments in their communities by prioritizing applicants with established community ties who in turn are able to build a local business in neighborhoods they are invested in. There will be popular neighborhoods with many applicants who are interested in establishing a business yet we cannot underestimate how meaningful partnership with the community is, especially for regulated cannabis as a new industry that many folks carry apprehensions about.
We recommend NYS-OCM develop a mechanism to prioritize applicants with established and meaningful ties to their community and limit the sales of medical conversion dispensaries until new recreational/adult use retail licensees are reasonably able to open within 90 days of allowed sales.
We believe NYS-OCM has tried to create regulations that speak to the missteps and lack of awareness that we have seen in other parts of the country and we hope NYS-OCM can be open to making a necessary pivot as needed in pursuit of a package of regulations that spur and encourage new small businesses to take shape.
Prioritizing justice impacted applicants is vital and even if the impact of incarceration has not affected one personally, overall there are many systemic barriers for Black and Brown entrepreneurs to take advantage of emerging and profitable industries like cannabis. As MSO’s and other corporate cannabis companies apply for licenses in subsequent rounds, breaking into the industry becomes much harder for self funded businesses. State identified social equity businesses need to be given priority throughout the application process so that New York can proudly proclaim itself as the leader of championing small businesses in cannabis.
We thank you for taking the time to read through our comments and we look forward to continuing to help build a successful cannabis industry in New York State.
COO & Co-Founder
Stash Queens, Inc.