New York issues first recreational weed licenses to ex-convicts, families

Get ready for some high times in New York.

A state board issued the Empire State’s first recreational marijuana sales licenses Monday — and dozens of those who were handed the keys to the state’s new legal pot kingdom are people with cannabis convictions on their records or their families.

The licenses, which were approved by the Office of Cannabis Management, come some twenty months months after the state legalized adult-use weed — and as the smoke-filled streets of New York City are awash with grey market unlicensed marijuana vendors.

“This is a monumental moment and it represents the last leg of the cannabis supply chain that requires licensure,” said OCM Chair Tremaine Wright.

“Not long ago, the idea of New York legalizing cannabis seemed unbelievable. Now not only are we legal, not only have we legalized, but we’re also building a legal adult use market with an equity-driven approach.”

The state agency’s board met in Harlem at 10 a.m. to officially dole out the 29 permits to ex-cons with business experience and to eight non-profits. To be eligible, the licensees had to either have a pot conviction or be a family member of someone who had one, and have owned a profitable business, state officials said.

The New York Office of Cannabis Management issued the state’s first recreational marijuana sales licenses on November 21, 2022.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File

Thirteen of the licenses were awarded to entrepreneurs with arrest records in the city, with all boroughs represented except Brooklyn, where a federal court injunction had temporarily blocked the state from issuing licensure following a lawsuit contesting the process, officials said.

State officials did not give details on the lucky recipient’s past criminal records, they all had had their records expunged.

The injunction also applied to the northern suburbs and other parts of Upstate New York. Seven licenses were issued on Long Island.

The state said it had received more than 900 applications and was still planning on awarding more than 100 more adult use licenses to business owners who had been arrested for weed in the state.

The “much awaited” announcements were a major step in making good on New York’s cannabis prohibition and harsh Rockefeller Drug Laws, which overwhelmingly targeted men in minority communities, officials said.

The state issued 29 licenses to former marijuana convicts and eight to nonprofits.
The state issued 29 licenses to former marijuana convicts and eight to nonprofits.
AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson

“The data is irrefutable. Nowhere in this country was the enforcement of cannabis prohibition weaponized more methodically against under resourced communities than right here in New York,” said OCM Executive Director Christopher Alexander.

“Between 1980 and 2020, there were over 1.2 million marijuana arrests across the state of New York, with approximately one million of those arrests occurring within the five boroughs.

“Of the over 400,000 statewide marijuana convictions across that same period, 54% of those convicted were black, 23% Hispanic and 21% were white.”

Despite the meeting’s celebratory tone, some applicants took to the microphone to explain why they thought the process was unfair when the floor was opened to public comments.

According to state officials, eligible licensees need to have owned a successful business and either have a marijuana conviction or be a family member of a person with a pot conviction.
According to state officials, eligible licensees need to have owned a successful business and either have a marijuana conviction or be a family member of a person with a pot conviction.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File

Potential online applicant Ronald Shuler said he felt “unrepresented” throughout the process and was scared to submit his information over fear of “losing” the $2,000 fee.

“I felt it was totally overwhelming, and I felt that some of the criteria and some of the things you needed … it was like incomprehensible to me, where I come from. You know what I mean?” Shuler told the board.

“I felt like it was like a process that was built to exclude me.”

The five member OCM board also unanimously approved 16 new cannabis cultivators and 8 processors and passed a slew of other resolutions, approving regulations that laid the groundwork for weed delivery and banned vendors from advertising to New Yorkers under the age of 21.

The state is planning on issuing more than 100 more licenses for recreational marijuana sales.
The state is planning on issuing more than 100 more licenses for recreational marijuana sales.
AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson

As the licenses were issued, numerous businesses had taken to selling weed across New York without formal approval and also without penalty, according to law enforcement officials who said the current law does not allow them to crack down on unlicensed vendors selling a legal product.

“The law, as currently written, does not provide an enforcement mechanism when an unlicensed establishment displays cannabis for sale,” told The Post in a statement, when asked about the department’s efforts to crack down on violators.

“The law only provides an enforcement mechanism if an actual sale is observed, and even then, the penalties are limited due to issues with the law as written.

“Furthermore, the state law does not provide the NYPD with a mechanism to close down unlicensed establishments.”

Still, regulators said their equity-based licensure model was the most progressive in the country.

Officials also touted New York’s two-tiered system which they said will keep the industry contained to the state while preventing well-heeled companies from establishing mini-monopolies.

“This is a momentous day, a very exciting thing to be a part of, and you know it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that this – this is really the first of its kind anywhere. And, you know, we’re truly leading with equity here,” said board member Jen Metzger.

The complete list of adult use cannabis licenses awarded to individuals and entities is below, according to the Office of Cannabis Management:

  • Nube NYC LLC – Owned by Hector Guerrero, Naiomy Guerrero, Hector Guerrero and Jarron Parnell in the Bronx.
  • Carl M Anderson III – Owned by Carl Anderson in the Bronx.
  • Royal Leaf NY – Owned by Angell Turuseta and Emely Chavez in the Bronx.
  • Gabbys Green LLC– Owned by Keith Dalessio in Queens.
  • CGG Enterprises Inc.– Owned by Carson Grant in Queens. 
  • Suzanne M Furboter – Owned by Suzanne Furboter and Fernando Pena in Queens.
  • Anthony Crapanzano – Owned by Anthony Crapanzano and Candace Lee in Queens.
  • Smacked LLC- Owned by Roland Conner in Manhattan.
  • Gabriel Marin – Owned by Gabriel Marin in Manhattan.
  • Planet 51 LLC – Owned by Nicholas Koury in Manhattan.
  • Florisun LLC – Owned by Keshawn Warner, Richard Rainone, and Christopher Vianelle in Manhattan.
  • Eastern Holdings 88 LLC – Owned by Yan Jin Chen and Zu Rong Chen on Staten Island.
  • SAMJNY Holdings LLC – Owned by Mohamed Elgaly and Shlomo Weinstock on Staten Island.     
  • Stage One Cannabis LLC – Owned by Nathaniel Innes, Galina German-Innes, Sugey Mirsky, and Joshua Mirsky in the Capital Region.
  • D-Andrews LLC- Owned by Donald Andrew in the Capital Region.
  • Essential Fowers– Owned by Matthew Robinson in the Capital Region.
  • Capital District Cannabis & Wellness Inc. – Owned by James Frese and Pasha Adams in the Capital Region.          
  • William Durham – Owned by William Durham in the Southern Tier.
  • Union Chill Cannabis NY LLC – Owned by Joshua Canfield and Union Chill Cannabis Company LLC in the Southern Tier.
  • Cured NY, LLC– Owned by Francis Russo in the Mohawk Valley Region.
  • Brian Stark Enterprises LLC– Owned by Brian Stark on Long Island.
  • Albert D Capraro– Owned by Albert Capraro on Long Island.
  • Strain Stars LLC – Owned by Kamaldeep Singh, Tushar Mallick, Jasmin Kaur, Kamaldeep Singh, Darminder Sing, and Gurmeet Sing on Long Island.
  • Root 13, LLC- Owned by Harpreet Singh and Manjit Singh on Long Island.
  • Growth Industries NY, LLC- Owned by Daniel Connolly and GI New York, LLC on Long Island.
  • Keep it 100 LLC- Owned by Marquis Hayes, Christina Johnson, James Kahn and Kim Stetz on Long Island.
  • Hydo Phonics – Owned by John Alvarez and Bryan Whalen on Long Island.
  • Brent L Rogers- owned by Brent Rogers in the North Country.

Non-For Profit CAURD Profiles 

  • Housing Works Cannabis, LLC – HOUSING WORKS 
  • The Doe Store LLC – Doe Fund 
  • Urban Weeds LLC – Urban Upbound 
  • CWS Holdings I, LLC — Challenge Industries 
  • NYCCABUDS – Center for Community Alternatives 
  • Kush & Kemet LLC – LIFE CAMPS 
  • On Point Cannabis, INC. – Broome County Urban League