Bronx Community Foundation, Partners, and CAURD Applicants launched The Bronx Dispensary Showroom: A Cannabis Retail Pop-Up Experience recently. It featured a built-out model of a New York State-compliant dispensary, demonstrating the entire cannabis retail experience. Educational and workforce programming focused on opportunities to build generational wealth in under-resourced communities harmed by cannabis prohibition.
The Showroom is The Bronx Community Foundation’s latest initiative to provide resources and education about cannabis to CAURD license applicants and other community members. In July 2022, The Foundation partnered with The Bronx Defenders to launch The Bronx Cannabis Hub, which has provided support—including application and legal assistance—to CAURD license applicants. The Hub has worked with hundreds of New Yorkers, helping 35 apply for CAURD licenses.
The CAURD licenses process stems from New York State’s Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) which passed in 2021 with social equity provisions that include reserving the State’s first 150 retail cannabis licenses for New Yorkers who have been directly impacted by cannabis prohibition.
The MRTA’s social equity provisions were created in recognition of the harms that cannabis prohibition caused, particularly in communities of color. In New York City, in the decades leading up to legalization, well over 90% of the people arrested for marijuana offenses were people of color, despite usage rates being equal across races. In 2011 alone, over 50,000 people — overwhelmingly and disproportionately young men of color — were arrested for low-level marihuana possession in New York City.
Disproportionate policing led to these communities suffering harm, including arrests, convictions, jail time, loss of housing, inability to get student loans, family separation (ACS taking children because of marijuana use), and deportation.
The impact was most harmful in communities like The Bronx. A 2018 Report by NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer examined the neighborhoods with the highest rates of marijuana-related arrests in NYC between 2010 and 2017. Nearly half of all neighborhoods in the Bronx were among the top ten by arrest rate.
In late November 2022, New York State’s cannabis regulators announced the first 36 license recipients (individual businesses and nonprofits) from a pool of 903 applicants. The first of these retail locations is expected to be in operation by the end of the year.