Who gets the first chance to sell marijuana in New York?

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Good Morning. It’s Thursday. Let’s start with a question: Who can be a marijuana dealer in New York State? We’re going to look at a fold in the state’s plan that will put some applicants at the front of the line. We’ll also look at an emotional outburst among those with a sweet tooth.

To become one of the first licensed marijuana dealers in New York State, you must have something about your past that you might not want to mention in other circumstances. You must have been convicted of a marijuana-related offense.

Gov. Kathy Hochul will announce the policy on Thursday. My colleagues Jesse McKinley and Grace Ashford write that the goal is to get people from communities affected by the nation’s decades-long drug war into the retail marijuana business from the start.

Recreational marijuana was legalized in New York last year and many previous convictions have been overturned. But retail adoption has been slow as entrepreneurs set up unlicensed dispensaries in tribal areas near the Canadian border and New Yorkers headed across the state to Massachusetts, which began selling marijuana in 2018.

New York officials, who expect the first licensed dispensaries to open by the end of the year, don’t want so-called social equity applicants and mom-and-pop marijuana companies to be left out.

This has happened in other states where they have run out of capital or face invincible corporate competition. Chris Alexander, executive director of the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Management, said that by focusing early on “those who would otherwise have been left behind,” New York would be able to “do something that has never been done before.”

Namely, the state could allocate money to smooth the rocky road on the way to opening a new company in a new industry. Hochul has proposed — and the Legislature seems likely to agree — $200 million in this year’s budget to support early-stage cannabis companies. The money will be used for the redesign and renovation of shop windows. Such support could make a difference for potential marijuana retailers in New York City, where real estate prices have rallied as the coronavirus pandemic has eased.

The state provides half of all marijuana-related licenses — including licenses to growers and other parts of the supply chain — to women, minorities, distressed farmers, veterans and “individuals who have lived in communities disproportionately affected by the drug war.” Black and Hispanic New Yorkers were far more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than white, non-Hispanic people.

Alexander said between 100 and 200 licenses would go to people convicted of a marijuana-related offense before the drug was legalized or to those who are “a parent, guardian, child, spouse or dependent.” ‘ with a marijuana conviction.

But conviction is not the only criterion. Alexander said his office would weigh applicants’ likelihood of running successful businesses – a reminder that the state has both ideological and financial goals to achieve. 40 percent of the tax revenue from the new pharmacies will go to drug-affected communities.


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Today we get a dose of unemployment statistics for New York City. The State Department of Labor, which collects the data, will announce the city’s unemployment rate for January. I asked Patrick McGeehan, who covers New York’s economy for Metro, what to expect. But I started with another question.

The national unemployment figures for January were released on February 4th and the national jobs report for February was released last week. Why didn’t we release January numbers for New York City earlier?

It’s strange to wait for the January numbers for New York a week after we get the February numbers for the nation.

The state releases these results about two weeks after the federal numbers are released at 8:30 a.m. on the first Friday of the month — except for February. In February, they don’t release the January numbers because they are working on an annual revision of the numbers. They call it benchmarking.

So looking back at 2021 delayed the January 2022 results. Today we’re not only going to find out what the January numbers were, we’re going to see what revisions they made to the numbers for last year as a whole.

What about the unemployment rate in January? What do you expect?

Whatever the number, I expect it will show the impact of Omicron because we were still in the midst of this crisis when this data was collected.

My guess is that the unemployment rate could be higher than in December, when the city’s unemployment rate was 8.8 percent, more than double the statewide rate of 3.8 percent.

But the January data — the data behind the number released today — is already out of date. We are in March. It looks like better times are coming, at least on the virus front, the reopening front and the rehiring front. Economically things looked better in December if you think back. Then we were hit by Omicron.


The news that Charles E. Entenmann had died in Florida prompted a question. He was the last of three brothers to run a Long Island bakery that was started by their grandfather and went on to become one of the most well-known baked goods companies in the country. He was 92.

The question was: What is special about Entenmann’s?

Of course, there were endless answers on social media.

“My father’s favorite dessert was Entenmann’s crumble cake, served with coffee,” @alexmckenna wrote. “He always left the butter knife in the box to make it easier to cut the next piece. We all fought around the corners.”

@Keith Olberman — the journalist, writer, and broadcaster — recalled “a vanilla-filled version of the crumble cake.”

“Not only would I kill for that, but between you and me I have,” he wrote. “My body weight used to be ~22 percent Duckman.”



METROPOLITAN diary

Dear Diary:

It was 1969 and for my 16th birthday I wanted nothing more than to see The Great White Hope on Broadway. The show had just won several Tony Awards including best actor for James Earl Jones and best actress for Jane Alexander.

I lived in South Fallsburg in the Catskills and I never thought that my then-boyfriend would surprise me with tickets or that my parents would let me go into town.

The show was mesmerizing and when it was over we stopped at the stage door to get my autograph for my program. After almost an hour we were one of two young couples still waiting when James Earl Jones stuck his head out.

Noticing our persistence, he invited us backstage. He was charming, and after a few minutes in the great actor’s company, this star-loving teenager left with his signature on her playbill.

More than 40 years later I attended a lecture by Jane Alexander. When it was over, I sat on the phone with those waiting to get books autographed.

When I got to the front, I presented my beloved program, told her my story and walked with her autograph alongside James Earl Jones’s.

– Sari Feldman

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Submit submissions here and Read more Metropolitan Diary here.


Glad we were able to get together here. See you in the morning. – JB

PS Here is today’s Mini crosswords and Spelling Bee. You can find all of our puzzles here.

Melissa Guerrero, Sadiba Hasan and Ed Shanahan have contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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