Your Take: New York’s Legal Cannabis Industry Must be Accessible to the Latino Community

New York must address language barriers, cultural incompetence and the damage done by cannabis prohibition.

This story was written in partnership with Crain’s New York, the trusted voice of the New York business community. 

To read this post in Spanish, click here.

by Kristina Lopez Adduci, House of Puff, and Vladimir Bautista, Happy Munkey

Kristina Lopez Adduci, House of Puff

As dispensaries begin to open and New York makes meaningful progress to launch its adult-use cannabis industry, one demographic that cannot be overlooked is the Latino community. We must address language barriers, cultural incompetence and the damage done by prohibition.

This is not an easy feat, but if we overcome this, Hispanic New Yorkers stand to be a key population to help our state’s legal industry achieve its true potential and fulfill the vision set out by the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. Here’s why New York must do more to make legal cannabis accessible to its Latino population.

Prohibition was harmful to Latinos.

Vladimir Bautista, Happy Munkey

The racist undertones of anti-cannabis movements, such as the War on Drugs, adversely affected Latinos, and reversing those impacts must be a priority in the legal industry. It is commonly known that the now derogatory term “marijuana,” along with the first wave of prohibition in Texas, was created because of anti-Mexican sentiments and the plant’s association with migrants crossing the border.

For the Latino community, the War on Drugs not only perpetuated racist stereotypes, but it was also a driver of mass deportations and increased hostilities toward Hispanic migrant populations. Latino women were more likely to be arrested or have their children taken away in connection to cannabis use and possession. Prohibition also sparked the creation of the Drug Enforcement Administration, an agency responsible for the criminalization and incarceration of Latinos in the United States and in South America. This deepened the negative and discriminatory stereotypes about Spanish-speaking Americans and cannabis, especially in major cities with large Hispanic populations like New York City.

Latinos have an influential presence in New York.

New York state has the fourth-largest Latino population in the U.S., tallying almost 4 million of us. In New York City, we make up more than a quarter of the population, being outnumbered only by Caucasians. Due to our growing presence, Latinos will play an increasingly large role in the state’s culture, innovation, politics and key industries. This influence will undoubtedly continue in New York’s emerging cannabis industry. We have been leaders in legalization efforts in the state and trailblazers in the wider industry. We also represent a large portion of the legacy community and a significant consumer profile.

Latino culture and cannabis culture are closely related. We must ensure that this connective tissue remains as we transition into a legal market.

Latinos are becoming fierce cannabis advocates and consumers.

The Latino population is the youngest ethnic group in the U.S. Additionally, Hispanic culture has historically recognized the medicinal benefits of the plant. Attitudes are still shifting within our community. Though it is common for elder-generation Latinos to perpetuate negative stigmas around cannabis consumption, overall, our community not only consumes cannabis but fiercely advocates for it. According to a 2019 report by Ad Age, Hispanics are 30% more likely than the average cannabis consumer to belong to a group that actively promotes legalizing cannabis. The study also found that Latinos are 42% more likely than the average American to be cannabis campaigners. Cannabis campaigners are characterized as people who don’t necessarily consume cannabis, but who are informed about cannabis issues and actively support legalization.

New York must tap this enthusiasm to effectively incorporate our community into the cannabis industry. This means more cannabis education and restorative justice efforts in Latino neighborhoods, more programming and advertising in Spanish, and culturally competent “budtenders” and staff at dispensaries.

To most effectively address these barriers, an increase in Latino operators and dispensary owners is also key. That would grant us the social and economic equity benefits of the new legal industry and repair the lingering damage done to our communities by the War on Drugs.

Latinos will be a decisive demographic in the long-term success of the state’s legal industry. From Latino trailblazers paving the way within the community to Latino consumers and stakeholders posing an influence from the outside, we will uplift the cannabis sector for the long term. For the sake of social equity and the health of the industry, New York must activate our community in the rollout of its adult-use program.

Kristina Lopez Adduci is the founder and CEO of House of Puff, a cannabis accessories brand with a focus on education and destigmatization. Vladimir Bautista is CEO and co-founder of cannabis lifestyle brand Happy Munkey and a conditional adult-use retail dispensary license applicant.


One comment

  • mexico mike

    January 27, 2023 at 10:18 am

    I want to know what happens when weed businesses run by people with a criminal record and no business experiences fail or sell out. We’ll see if NY can get their act together. The black market in NY is going to be a BIG problem.


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