More than a year after New York legalized recreational marijuana, becoming the 15th state to allow adult-use cannabis, efforts are underway to prepare for the launch of legal recreational sales later this year. Officials have announced the appointment of Damian Fagon as the chief equity officer at the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM).
The OCM was created by the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in 2021 and is tasked with overseeing the licensing, cultivation, production, distribution, sale and taxation of cannabinoid hemp, recreational cannabis and medical marijuana in New York State.
Fagon is a third-generation farmer with an extensive background in agriculture and international development with an enviable resume. He has headed several development initiatives with Guatemalan coffee exporters, rice growers in Sierre Leone and Jamaican castor farmers.
Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright says that Fagon’s extensive knowledge of the agriculture industry, his experience as a leader in New York’s Black farming community and his support of various farming communities across the world makes him uniquely positioned to head New York’s cannabis equity program.
Back in 2017, Fagon played a major leadership role in launching several commercial marijuana operations in the Caribbean, South Carolina and New York. As the chief equity officer, he will now be charged with overseeing economic and social equity initiatives created by the Cannabis Control Board and the Office of Cannabis Management.
According to New York’s marijuana laws, 50% of recreational cannabis licenses have to go to equity applicants with a specific focus on applicants living in communities that were disproportionately affected by the drug war. Distressed farmers and businesses owned by veterans, women and minorities also qualify as social equity applicants.
Part of Fagon’s job as chief equity officer will be ensuring that 50% of adult-use cannabis licenses go to qualified and deserving social equity applicants.
The decades-long drug war has long been considered a failure for increasing racial persecution in America and treating addiction as a criminal rather than a public health issue. Millions of people have been shackled with cannabis-related offenses, and harsh sentencing, especially for people of color, has done immense damage to Black communities around the country. Social equity programs that are specifically centered around cannabis are meant to reinvest in these communities and alleviate some of the societal harms caused by the war on drugs.
Several states with legal cannabis programs, including California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Illinois, have incorporated social equity programs into their cannabis laws. As such equity programs get underway in different states that have legalized marijuana, cannabis companies such as Flora Growth Corp. (NASDAQ: FLGC) are set to play an even bigger indirect role in the communities in which they operate.
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