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By Mona Kosar Abdi , Abigail Cruz, Emily Lippiello, Lulit Tadesse, and Ivan Pereira on ABC News Live, posted May 20, 2023

“We’ve been talking about the opportunity to take what was a tool of systemic racism in some ways being implemented in communities like New York and use it now as a tool for reparative and restorative justice and further opportunity for those communities,” Dasheeda Dawson, the founding director of Cannabis NYC, the city office that oversees legal cannabis businesses, told ABC News.

 

Last spring, a year after New York State legalized recreational marijuana, New York City Mayor Eric Adams created the Cannabis Equity Program. The program helps New Yorkers who were negatively affected by the state’s previous drug laws obtain a Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries license, or a “CAURD.”

 

At least 30% of the applicants applying for the license must have had a “justice-involved” history related to a previous marijuana arrest and shown entrepreneurial experience, according to state rules.

 

PHOTO: Dasheeda Dawson, the founding director of Cannabis NYC.
Dasheeda Dawson, the founding director of Cannabis NYC.
ABC News

Dawson noted that the “justice-involved” criteria include applicants who had family members who were arrested on previous marijuana-related charges.

 

“CAURD is really intended to focus on those who have been directly impacted,” she said.

 

“This means something to a lot of men who look like me and those who don’t even look like me,” he said. “Because a lot of times we lose our kids…They [are] like balloons, they get caught in the wind and they’re gone.”

 

PHOTO: Arana Hankin-Biggers, president and co-founder of The Travel Agency, speaks with ABC News' Mona Kosar Abdi.
Arana Hankin-Biggers, president and co-founder of The Travel Agency, speaks with ABC News’ Mona Kosar Abdi.
ABC News

 

Dawson said customers buy cannabis products for recreational purposes and to treat health issues such as chronic pain.

 

Arana Hankin-Biggers, the president and co-founder of The Travel Agency: A Cannabis Store, partnered with the nonprofit agency the DOE Fund, which works to help formerly incarcerated New Yorkers learn new skills and get back on their feet, for her CAURD application.

 

Hankin-Biggers told ABC News that it was just to set up this partnership, where half of the proceeds from the store go to the DOE Fund’s projects.

 

“There are still over 40,000 in prison, primarily Black men on cannabis charges,” she told ABC News. “There are instances and stories of individuals who had a dime bag and who were arrested and sent to jail for seven years.”

 

Twenty-two states have legalized recreational marijuana and 13 of those states have implemented social equity programs. Dawson said other states purposely excluded entrepreneurs with previous drug-related records.

 

“By virtue of the fact that we are prioritizing that group, we are setting a standard not just in the United States, but globally. And that’s where I think New York can really be a pioneer,” she said.

 

 

By Mona Kosar Abdi , Abigail Cruz, Emily Lippiello, Lulit Tadesse, and Ivan Pereira on ABC News Live, posted May 20, 2023

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