Marijuana trade association for Latino New Yorkers officially formed

Latino Cannabis Association
Latino Cannabis Association launches

Marijuana trade association for Latino New Yorkers officially formed

The Latino Cannabis Association said it wants to build generational wealth within the growing market.
March 11, 2022

As the legal cannabis industry takes shape in New York, a new nonprofit trade association is working to help Latino entrepreneurs get their marijuana businesses off the ground.

The Latino Cannabis Association, or LCA, is working with members of the community who want to get involved in legal, adult marijuana sales, especially those who’ve been impacted by the justice system. The LCA’s organizers say they hope to give potential business owners assistance through the arduous process of applying for licensure, as well as legal issues, accounting, government relations, public relations, community relations and networking. 

“LCA from its inception was so that Latinos can get their fair share,” said Jeffrey Garcia, president of the LCA, who described some of the inequities Latino entrepreneurs faced during the coronavirus pandemic that lead up to the creation of the new cannabis industry trade organization.

“The first round of (the Paycheck Protection Program) went to people other than us and we had to really fight with our local elected officials. Only until they allowed a second round of funding did we really get our help during the pandemic,” Garcia said. “So that translated into the LCA, so that we are stakeholders in this new and emerging industry that will be very profitable for our neighborhoods. And for us, it's not just about getting licenses. It's really about any business receiving long-term generational wealth in our communities, to change the landscape of our community.”

The association has about 25 members, so far, all of which represent a range of personal and professional experiences. Garcia and Vice President Melissa Guzzman, who both founded the LCA, said they prioritized having diversity within the association’s leadership, to represent the many experiences within the Latino community.

State officials announced Wednesday that New York will first prioritize eligibility for dispensary licenses to those with past marijuana convictions. Nonprofits will also qualify if they serve justice-involved communities. 

“The Latino community has been disproportionately impacted by the policies of prohibition from the war on drugs, and as someone coming from Corona, Queens, seeing the over-policing of communities that is out there, it's basically our time to make sure that we get seen, we get heard we stand together, and we get a part of this new generational wealth that is to come” said Guzman.

In 2020, police mainly arrested Black and Hispanic New Yorkers for marijuana. According to the Census Bureau, Black and Hispanic communities only make up about 24% and 29% of the city’s population. By contrast, 57% of those arrested were Black and 35.6% Latino, making 94% of arrests people of color. In many cases within the Latino community, those who were convicted of marijuana possession were even deported. Marijuana possession is the 4th most common cause for deportation.

With marijuana now legalized, LCA organizers said they hope to see a reversal of the negative impacts the legal system had brought on Latinos. 

“We would want to see that all Latinos that apply get licenses, not just the ones in our association. But not only that, but that they're able to really build these businesses out and create jobs and opportunities in our neighborhoods,” said Garcia. “Our goal is to create an ecosystem where not only do we get licenses, but that we hire from within our communities as well.”

Angelique Molina-Mangaroo
previously founded and was executive director of The Wealthy Youth Project, a financial literacy organization interested in addressing issues faced by women and girls of color. She also was a reporter for the Hunts Point Express in the Bronx, served as a Young Women’s Advisory Council Member on the New York City Council, and has worked with several nonprofit organizations, among them Planned Parenthood of New York City and the Legal Aid Society.