Bronx Cannabis Hub, an offshoot of the non-profit community advocacy group Bronx Defenders, is taking on its parent organization’s social justice-focused mission and applying it to New York City’s nascent cannabis industry.
The Center, in partnership with The Bronx Community Foundation, was launched in July with a mission to support communities affected by marijuana prohibition by helping low-income New Yorkers navigate the application and licensing process for cannabis businesses and offering support to those who can. I can’t afford the $2,000 registration fee.
Bronx Cannabis Hub director Patrice Edwards said the center is intended to be “a trusted resource and support for those most affected by the War on Drugs and over-criminalization of marijuana to be able to access free legal support and assistance.” apply for a license.”
Eli Northrup, acting director of the Bronx Cannabis Hub from its inception until December, has been closely associated with the center since its inception. Although he has been publicly active for less than a year, the idea has been in development since New York State’s cannabis legalization law, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, was passed in March 2021.
Long before the Hub was launched, he said, fairness in cannabis policy was extremely important to Northrup during his nearly ten years as a public defender.
“One of the number one charges I saw was marijuana possession,” he said. “There were a huge number of arrests every year. So, I could see from my point of view, just in this role, how much it affected people and how disproportionate it was…racially.”
After passing the MRTA, he realized that there was a huge need for legal support for people from low-income communities trying to get into the cannabis space.
“It has become clear that there are no free legal services for those who want them,” Northrup said. “So I started talking to the Bronx Defenders people, like, ‘Hey, maybe we could intervene?’ Because we have a history of working on this issue.
“We have trust in the community, we have clients who have been directly affected by marijuana laws. And we have great relationships with pro bono law firms building on our previous work.”
This is how the Hub began, Northrup said.
“We can act as a hub and organizer and make sure people are not taken advantage of and try to enforce the provisions of the social justice law because social justice doesn’t work in other states. It’s just… it’s not like that,” Northrup said.
The social justice provisions referenced by Northrup are parts of the MRTA that require the State Cannabis Control Board to implement a fairness plan to promote applicants from communities that have been “disproportionately” affected by the cannabis ban and create an incubator program for these applicants. .
The MRTA is unique among state cannabis legalization laws in that it has set a goal of granting 50% adult cannabis licenses to those applicants for equity—the same applicants for whom the Bronx Cannabis Hub was created to help.
“I think New York has a real responsibility because, in my opinion, New York has the best law in the country in terms of prioritizing social justice,” Northrup said. “There are people at the Office of Cannabis Management who I think really care about getting things right. So, if New York can’t do it, it’s very hard to imagine that it could be done in another state, right? If New York can do that, then it could be a model for when other states legalize it, when it gets legalized at the federal level.”
In the months leading up to the Hub’s launch, Northrup said the main challenge was finding funding. This work is ongoing, but the Center is now able to provide the assistance it intended to provide.
“Our number one priority right now is to ensure that our current CAURD cohort of 30 (candidates) has everything they need as licenses continue to roll out,” said Edwards, Director of the Center.
This means, in her words, “ensuring that they have their basic support of pro bono legal services, as well as being connected to comprehensive services that are related to the fact that they can be successfully approved for their application, and then ensuring that so that we have all the necessary services. our processes are in place and we’re ready to go when OCM releases these apps.”
Edwards, who officially began her new role on December 5, 2022, described the Hub as an exciting work in progress.
“It feels like we are flying a plane while building it,” she said. “It’s a very common phrase used in politics and nonprofit management, but that’s how it was for me in this position. And not in a bad way. I think this is a very exciting time for New York. This is a very exciting time, in particular for the Bronx.”
Not only building this aircraft, but advocating for the need for more aircraft, is another goal of the Hub’s promotion, she said.
“The Hub is also very interested in having a voice in the larger conversation and making sure we keep the conversation going about why the Hub matters, why this work needs to be replicated citywide, why it needs to be replicated across the states. who choose legalization and why it is a worthy model to continue investing in,” Edwards said.
“In a nutshell, I would say that the next two years look exactly like this: we are really just building our support structure and continuing to provide our free legal services.”