‘Let’s Do It Legit’: Drug Arrestees Vie for First New York Pot Licenses – The New York Times

People who have been punished for marijuana offenses are applying to open the state’s first retail cannabis dispensaries.

Anytime the police approached the street in the Bronx where Hector Bonilla used to hang out, his friends would toss away their marijuana on the ground, he said.

The police would pin the drugs on whomever was closest, Mr. Bonilla said. That is how he ended up with two convictions for marijuana possession in early 2000, he recalled, for weed he maintains was not his.

Mr. Bonilla, 42, a taxicab driver, said his criminal record haunted him for years and made getting work difficult. “Now, over 20 years later, it’s my free ticket to this,” he said, pointing to a laptop screen.

Mr. Bonilla was applying for a license to open one of New York’s first dispensaries to legally sell recreational cannabis. The four-year licenses are reserved for business owners who have been convicted of marijuana-related offenses in a New York State court, and will allow them to sell cannabis to any adult as early as this year.

The licensing effort aims to atone for the damage inflicted during the war on drugs, which has been criticized for targeting communities of color and focusing on drug use

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