New York State Sizes Up The Green Gold Rush | National | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram

New York State Sizes Up The Green Gold Rush 

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"Farm co-ops and cannabiseries are the antithesis of a corporate model," Novick says. "There's no way small farmers are going to be able to compete with these well-financed cannacorporations with national ambitions, unless we provide a structure like a co-op and provide for micro businesses."

Reparative Legislation

The licensing issues are entangled with social justice issues in the legal weed movement: Reformers want those who have been most affected by prohibition to have priority to enter into and capitalize on a legal marijuana industry.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, in 2017, black people in upstate cities were 12.1 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people, a disparity that has persisted for decades.

There have been several amendments added to the proposed bill to address marijuana regulation as a criminal reform issue. As it is written now, the bill would expunge prior lower-level marijuana convictions, expand the resentencing and reclassification of other weed-related crimes, help people transition from the illicit to the legal market, and grant greater preference for sales licenses to those affected by prior marijuana convictions.

The most vocal legislator on this front has been Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes, who struck a more cautious tone throughout the legislative process. When Governor Cuomo proposed his version of a plan in January, he talked about the need for "social equity," without specifying how tax revenue and other reparative efforts for communities impacted by existing pot laws would work. "I think we're only about 50 percent of the way to where we need to be with the governor's proposal," Peoples-Stokes told the Buffalo News in January; she called for state revenues to be specifically earmarked for "communities that have been negatively impacted" by mass incarceration and unequal enforcement of marijuana laws.

The disconnect was a sign of things to come. The Governor and seemingly all of the legislators working on the cannabis reform agree that any bill needs to include social justice provisos, but what that looks like remains to be determined. In lieu of the MRTA passing, some activists want to see a stop-gap measure like a statewide moratorium on arrests, but Senator Krueger dismissed the idea. "It doesn't really work," she said, citing the fact that New York City has technically decriminalized marijuana possession, and it hasn't had much impact on racial disparities in arrests. "As long as there are still things on the books saying it's illegal, in the big cities, at least, that's been turned into stop-and-frisk, and if they find any amount of marijuana on you, they bust you."

Three's Company

Hemp growers want a piece of the action, too, and they've been buoyed by one big development that has paved the way for cannabis reform: the explosion of CBD. Perhaps you've ingested it recently, infused into beer or a gummy or a latte or a marshmallow; maybe you've taken a CBD tincture for stress relief, or rubbed a CBD lotion on an aching joint.

THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the cannabinoid molecule in cannabis that gets you high; CBD is one of the 100 or so that does not. But these other cannabinoids aren't entirely useless: There's a growing body of research into CBD's interaction with the human body's endocannabinoid system, a network of receptors that helps regulate immune activity and a variety of cognitive and physical processes, including pain, mood, and memory.

CBD is shrouded in mystery: Scientists aren't exactly sure how it works, for one, and its legal status isn't exactly fixed. CBD derived from marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, but CBD derived from industrial hemp (which is cannabis with much lower concentrations of THC) is not. Shipping it across state lines is technically illegal, though rarely enforced. Many of the CBD products on the market, meanwhile, are purposefully vague about their benefits, since the FDA prohibits unproven health claims.

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