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Mayor Eric Adams’ Community Op-Ed: Building a legal, equitable cannabis industry that works for us all

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When we came to office two years ago, we had a clear vision: protect public safety, revitalize the economy, and make this city more livable for hardworking New Yorkers. And building a legal, equitable cannabis industry is part of every part of that vision.

Legal cannabis remains the right choice for New York City. This budding, emerging industry offers a once-in-a-generation chance for those disproportionately impacted by the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ to build wealth, especially in our Black and Brown communities. For too long, these communities faced high rates of drug-related incarceration and were denied economic opportunities. But thanks to the equitable, legal cannabis industry, they have a chance to get in on the industry from the ground up. We know, however, that it’s not enough to just support the opening of new legal cannabis shops — we must have Albany grant local authorities the power to close down the illegal operators that threaten the economic success of legal shops and put the safety of our communities at risk.

Last week, I was proud to celebrate the opening of the first legal dispensary in Brooklyn owned by a Black woman. Matawana Dispensary is an example of how we can build an equitable cannabis industry that rights the wrongs of the past. Leeann Mata, the owner of Matawana Dispensary, was justice-impacted by the previous ‘War on Drugs,’ but turned her pain into purpose. Now, she is a proud small business owner in the borough she calls home.

For many years, people of color in our communities were routinely targeted when it came to cannabis law enforcement. Cannabis criminalization was used to harass, arrest, and prosecute so many of our brothers and sisters. And that’s why New York City is making sure that the New Yorkers who were harmed by the mistakes of the past are first in line for the economic opportunities that legal cannabis offers in the future.

Through the city’s Cannabis NYC initiative, we have supported the opening of 26 legal cannabis shops across the five boroughs, and, every day, we are working to create a more thriving, equitable, and legal cannabis industry.

Our commitment stems from a moral obligation to make sure that the people who were adversely affected by cannabis criminalization get their fair share of this emerging market. But these legitimate businesses are facing stiff competition from shops that are not following the rules.

To support the legal cannabis market, New York City must have the tools necessary to stop the illegal market from growing even further. These illegal shops take money out of the registers of legal businesses, while simultaneously posing both a public safety and a public health concern — selling counterfeit products that are unsafe and often targeted towards kids.

We know that New Yorkers are fed up with illegal storefronts and their unlawful business practices. Legalization is about following the law, not a free pass to sell unregulated cannabis products.

That’s why our administration is working with all our partners in Albany and New York State to get the local authority to shut down illegal smoke shops.

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