Lawsuit Alleges Bias In New York Cannabis Equity Program, Lawyer Slams ‘Absurd And Offensive’ Claims

New York marijuana regulators have yet another lawsuit to contend with. This time around, the suit argues discrimination against white men in the state’s cannabis social equity program. 

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday by Valencia AG in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of New York, asks the court to halt the program that was supposed to establish a diverse and equitable cannabis marketwrites Politico Pro’s Mona Zhang.

It alleges the state regulators have created a social and economic equity (SEE) program with criteria that conflict with the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit focuses on the priority given to women and minority-owned businesses and the SEE program’s goal to award 50% of licenses to social equity entrepreneurs.

“Defendants enacted regulations and procedures that provide favor and preference to persons of a selected race or gender to the exclusion of Caucasian or white men for applications for cannabis licenses,” the lawsuit reads. “In doing so, Defendants violated the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.”

Furthermore, the lawsuits attack the Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board’s racial makeup, suggesting that OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander and CCB Chairwoman Tremaine Wright were appointed to these positions because of their race or gender, writes Green Market Report.

“The situation of having only minorities and women, and no white man, in the key positions associated with the OCM is statistically aberrant to such a degree as to lead to a reasonable, fair conclusion that the Defendants were selected to their aforementioned positions on the basis of race and gender,” reads the lawsuit.

The plaintiff is asking the court to grant punitive damages and award of “lost profits,” while also issuing a court order that dismisses all SEE licenses for minority and women-owned businesses, prohibits the OCM from issuing licenses based on race or gender, demands the OCM to create all future application fees equal for all demographics, etc.

Cannabis Lawyer Slams ‘Absurd Claims’

Fatima Afia, a cannabis lawyer and expert in cannabis litigation at Rudick Law Group, commented on the lawsuit in a LinkedIn post, saying that there are “Lots of baseless claims in this complaint…including that white men are being excluded and disadvantaged in the queue system because none of the members of CCB or OCM are white men.”

The attorney concluded that “this particular Complaint and its absurd claims are beyond offensive to anyone who understands the harms caused to communities of color by the War on Drugs and who seeks an equitable industry.”

Related Links: 

New York Cannabis Regulators Postpone Jan Meeting To Decide On Home Cultivation And Other Issues

Turning Over A New Leaf In New York? Cannabis Dispensaries Await Movement After Crucial Lawsuit Settlement 

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Photo: Courtesy of Ulf Wittrock via Shutterstock and Jose Luis Sanchez Pereyra via Unsplash