The Latino Cannabis Association has launched this month to help members who grew up in over-policed neighborhoods to get licenses to enter the cannabis business in New York.

The association was formed late last year and officially became a nonprofit in early 2022.

According to Jeffrey Garcia, the group’s president, getting a license is the first step to developing businesses throughout the community.

“We want to make sure that our members are ready to actually not only get licenses, but build out these businesses and create generational wealth in our communities,” Garcia said. “We are providing the support around them.”

Garcia also added that the group will source additional services for these businesses, like contractors, lawyers and engineers, who also identify as Latino, to grow their community. Once these businesses start making money, the association plans to reinvest in the Latino community through grants and social justice programs.

“Social justice is one of the main things that we’re looking for with this association,” said Melissa Guzman, its vice president. “The unity is where we come together as Latinos, within our communities, and the legacy is how we were impacted directly or, doesn’t need to be directly, but it can also be indirectly by the war on drugs.”

Under New York state law, half of the licenses to grow and sell marijuana are expected to be set aside for people from disproportionately impacted communities and small farmers. They would have access to state-run loans, grants and incubator programs.

The Latino association is among several trade groups that have formed since the state’s legalization of cannabis use for adults.

“We’re gonna be looking for stakeholders and investors in our communities,” Garcia said. “We understand that there are many folks in our communities with resources, financial resources, business resources, real estate resources, that are Latinos, that we need to get into the fold. And that’s going to come in the form of education.”

“They’re going to spread their knowledge and help us all out when we start our own businesses,” Guzman said.

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