Eric Adams endorses putting drug convicts 'front in line' for pot dispensary licenses – New York Post

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Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday endorsed putting people convicted of drug crimes “front in line” to receive highly lucrative marijuana dispensary licenses.
Just hours after winning City Hall’s blessing, the Democrat-appointed state Cannabis Control Board approved approved the controversial rules limiting eligibility to operators where at least one applicant was convicted of pot-related crimes or immediately related to someone swept up before marijuana’s legalization.
“I want to talk about those who are part of the legacy project, those with prior convictions because of heavy-handed policing in many of the communities,” Adams said Thursday before the cannabis board vote on the controversial rule giving ex-drug cons preference in obtaining licenses to sell weed.
“Yes, they should be front in line to receive some of the licensing, but we need to go throughout the entire process. We don’t want just to be those individuals to be part of selling,” he said.
“They should be front in line and growing, front and line in every aspect of it. We unfairly targeted black and brown communities during the marijuana heavy-handed arrest that I fought against when I was a police officer and we can’t go back to those days and they should be front in line.”
He also said the state should help ex-cons clean up their credit rating and provide them job training.
“We need to make them whole and it’s more than just ‘You are front in line for it,’” the mayor said.
But in response to a question, Adams said he was concerned about big companies gaming the system by hiring non-violent ex-drug cons as fronts to get a foothold in New York’s weed industry. He intends to speak to cannabis board chairwoman Tremaine Wright and lawmakers about it.
“I don’t recall one corporate executive being stopped on Tremont Avenue and have someone going through their pocket and pulling out a joint and then locking them up. So they were not front in line in the perp walk and they should not be front in line and benefiting from the cannabis industry. And they should go back into communities that were hurt the hardest and that is what we need to focus on,” Adams said.
But opponents of cannabis legalization said it’s reefer madness to give ex-cons preferential treatment for weed sales licenses and claimed it might be illegal.
“As someone who has four liquor licenses, where having any felony conviction essentially disqualifies you, this criminal preference policy is going to create big problems,” said upstate Republican Sen. George Borrello, a restaurateur.
He said it’s not a total surprise because the law itself specifically states that preference will be given to drug felons, and he argued against it during the Senate floor debate on the pro-cannabis bill last year.
“This is an all cash business. We are going to take career criminals, give them licenses and expect they will follow all of the rules, report all sales and pay all of the taxes. This is going to be a disaster and no other state has done this,” Borrello said.
He also anticipated that some licensees will see illicit drugs such as meth and heroin “through the back door.”
State Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy all but telegraphed that the preferential hiring of ex-cons will be used as a major campaign issue against Democrats in this fall’s elections for statewide and legislative offices.
“Classic Albany where everything is a rigged process driven by special interests rather than merit. Under Democrat rule, drug dealers get lucrative contracts and law-abiding small business owners are treated like criminals. This madness must stop in the next election,” Langworthy said.
Senate Republican Minority Leader Robert Ortt chimed in,  “Once again, Albany Democrats are prioritizing criminals and drug dealers over law-abiding New Yorkers. Not only are they giving a leg up to those who have broken the law, they are planning to use hundreds of millions in taxpayers dollars to do so. Every New Yorker should be outraged at their latest insane proposal.”
Conservative Party leader Jerry Kassar said the rules discriminate against law-abiding citizens by giving ex-cons a leg up.
“I would hope they are opening themselves up to a lawsuit. It makes no sense,” said Kassar, whose right-leaning party opposed pot legalization.
Sen. Phil Boyle, a Long Island Republican, said the hiring preference for cons, shows that Democrats “have no interest in creating a legitimate industry. They should be prioritizing those who followed the law and reward good behavior over bad.” 
The five-member cannabis board was appointed by Hochul and Democratic leaders of the Assembly and Senate. They include Hochul appointees — chairwoman and former Brooklyn Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright, Reuben McDonald, CEO of the state Dormitory Authority and Jessica Garcia of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
The Senate appointed former Democratic Sen. Jen Metzer and the Assembly appointee is Buffalo lawyer Adam Perry.
Wright called passing the new rules a “heavy lift” that could become a “model” for the nation.
The board emphasized that licensees will be required to hold a cannabis license for four years — to help prevent scams where convicts serve as fronts for big companies.
The board approved another rule that will give New York’s hemp farmers first dibs at growing high grade cannabis.
The rollout is underway after a law legalizing the adult use of cannabis was approved by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature last year. Hochul projects the cannabis industry generating $1.25 billion in pot sales for the state over six years.
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