CLAUDIA THORENS – The Associated Press
HICKSVILLE, NY (Reuters) – Eladio Guzman spent two years in prison for drug trafficking, missing the birth of his first child. Cannabis is part of its turbulent past, but a year after New York legalized possession and use marijuana, it could be his future. He wants to open a medical clinic.
“I made it, we got hurt,” said the 44-year-old union member, sitting next to his wife at the dinner table at his house on Long Island. “It’s an opportunity to accept what I’ve done and help me do something positive.”
His wife Melissa Guzman also survived the war on drugs: several relatives were arrested. An uncle who spent ten years in prison. His final deportation to the Dominican Republic. Now that New York is developing rules that allow individuals or businesses to apply for a dispensary license, Guzmans are exploring the industry while awaiting applications to open a cannabis store in nearby Queens.
They often talk about the look, size and design of the future store, which they decided to call “Fumaoo”.
They do not expect to receive one of the first 100 licenses for cannabis retail planned by the state reserve for people with marijuana-related convictions. This is because Guzmans do not meet certain requirements, such as having at least a 10% stake in a business that has been making a net profit for two years.
However, they are not overly concerned as they qualify as applicants for “social justice”. Melissa Moore, director of civil system reform at the Alliance for Drug Legalization, said the state seems to be really aiming to promote components of social justice a law that was passed last year.
“I think it’s an important first step: to make it very clear that people who have been criminalized for cannabis in the past can and should be able to market in New York,” Moore said, “especially given that others In some cases, they actively banned me from even being an employee, and of course, they did not have the right to own outpatient clinics. “
Guzmans have joined the newly formed Latin American Hemp Association and are traveling to cities like Boston to visit dispensaries for business research. They also attend industry conferences and online courses.
The justice system has been locked up for decades a disproportionately large number of Hispanics and Negroes for drug crimes. New York City authorities say they want to address the issue by trying to secure a market place for people who have been prosecuted.
Jeffrey Garcia, president of the Latin American Hemp Association, believes this is a good policy. He is trying to find Latinos who are interested in investing in the industry.
“We are very deliberately looking for social capital contenders, Latinos who understand our vision of the community and help our community and create the wealth of generations,” Garcia said.
Eladio Guzman grew up in the East Quarter of Brooklyn, New York, where his Dominican father owned a store. He said he was drawn to “street life”.
“I thought, ‘Wow, these guys make so much money, wear gold teeth.’ … It was hip. And my father kills himself by waking up every morning at 6 a.m. to open this business, ”Guzman said.
He drove a taxi but also sold marijuana, cocaine, crack or ecstasy pills. “Whatever it was, I was able to get my hands on it,” he said.
In 2007, he was arrested for possession for distribution. He was going to marry Melissa, so she put the paperwork on her family’s house to rescue him. After a year of fighting his case, he was convicted and sent to the capital’s Brooklyn detention center in 2008.
The couple now have three children and they live in a house in Hicksville, Long Island. The 38-year-old Melissa is the insurance regulator and Guzman is the foreman of Steamfitters Local 638. Images with the inscription “Fumaoo” in colorful graffiti-like letters hang in their living room and kitchen. Their days are filled with work, taking their children to football classes after school and studying the cannabis industry.
They say owning a dispensary would improve their lives and provide a better future for their children. They also say they hope to return their community to their profits.
“Perhaps we could help remodel nearby parks or renovate a neighbor’s sidewalk, make the street better, or provide shelters that may be needed in the community,” Melissa Guzman said. The state said 40% of cannabis tax revenues would go to minority communities that recorded a large number of marijuana arrests.
Moore, a proponent of drug reform, said the state could invest in on-the-job training or in additional programs.
“We’re talking about a really significant amount of money – year after year – that can be used by communities in a way that they are most responsive to the types of damage that need to be remedied,” she said.
New York aims to give 50% of its licenses to marijuana entrepreneurs who are women or minorities, struggling farmers, disabled veterans and people from communities that have survived serious police.
Recreational marijuana is legal in 18 states, Washington, DC, and Guam. The administration of Democratic Governor of New York Katie Hochul has promised to create “the most diverse and inclusive” marijuana industry in the country.
Eladio Guzman hopes the governor is right.
“I think cannabis is the next opportunity for bitcoins, especially for us minorities,” he said.
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