Criminal Convictions from Getting a Cannabis License


What Kind of Criminal Convictions Can Disqualify You from Getting a Cannabis License

If you’re a convicted felon and want to know, whether you can still try your luck in the marijuana industry? Well, the answer depends upon the type, nature, and seriousness of your crime, but most likely Yes! Although having a criminal background does limit the options, as hiring a felon is the last thing any owner wants to do. 

The marijuana industry runs a background check on each employee before hiring them. When the background check reflects that you’ve an ongoing charge or conviction within the last 10 years from a controlled substance-related felony then the law automatically prohibits you from the hiring/licensing list without the certificate of good conduct or receiving a pardon. In many states, marijuana expungement and written permission from the MRA (Marijuana Regulatory Agency) can also help you stay in the marijuana business. 

In this post, we’re going to discuss what kind of criminal convictions can disqualify you from getting a cannabis license in New York, New Jersey, and Mississippi. 

Can a criminally convicted person participate in the cannabis business in New York?

Marijuana businesses are heavily regulated by the State, and most states have set guidelines that disqualify a person who was ever involved in any criminal activities.

According to the eligibility criteria of the New York Liquor Authority, A felony-convicted individual isn’t eligible to obtain a license without receiving a pardon, having a Certificate of Good Conduct, or a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities. However, non-violent felonies like marijuana cultivation, possession or transportation, and other misdemeanors (crimes punishable by less than 12 months), often have better chances as compared to other types of convictions like robbery, murder, rape, and assault. 

As per section 137, certain felony convictions related to the operation of a business and the trafficking of cannabis in the last 3 years may not be able to obtain a license to sell/manufacture cannabis or cannabis products. So, here is a list of the offenses that aren’t eligible to get a license by the government.

  • Fraud
  • Money laundering
  • Forgery or other unlawful conduct related to pertaining & owning a business. 
  • Recruiting, hiring, or indulging a minor in transporting, distributing, carrying selling, preparing for sale, or peddling any controlled substance to a minor; or selling, offering to sell, furnishing offering to provide, administering, or handing any controlled substance to a minor (NYS PL 221.50). 

Other reasons that can cause license disqualification:

  • When a person doesn’t have good moral character
  • Violating the Cannabis Law sections 72 or 85 
  • Whether creates or increases the dangers of unlawful practices, methods and activities in the marijuana industry
  • License associated with cannabis canceled, revoked, or suspended in a jurisdiction or any other state.
  • Purposely not submitting fingerprints for criminal background checks as per section 138 of the Cannabis Law.
  • Delinquent in filing tax returns or paying any amount owed to the federal, state, or local government.

Can a criminally convicted person participate in the cannabis business in New Jersey?

Unlike the closest neighbor New York, New Jersey believes in -hate the crime, not the criminal. In the last few months, New Jersey has made many headlines by prioritizing prior cannabis felons to legally enter the market. Now, it doesn’t matter whether the cannabis-convicted felons have expunged their prior convictions or not. The official website of New Jersey shows that Diversely Owned Businesses, Social Equity Businesses, and Impact Zone Businesses will be given priority in the licensure process. It clearly reflects that their applications will be reviewed before other applicants. 

Here is the list of disqualifying convictions:

  • Booby traps in manufacturing and distribution stores (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-4.1.b)
  • Hiring a juvenile in a drug distribution, or other similar indictable offense that involves a minor into dispensing/distributing a controlled dangerous substance or analog (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-6)
  • Distribution to persons below 18 years (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-8)
  • Counterfeit drugs, medical devices (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-11.1)
  • Delivering drug paraphernalia to persons under 18 years of age (N.J.S.A. 2C:36-5)
  • Any State, or Federal offense involving fraud, deceit, or embezzlement as a necessary element of the offense. 

What about Mississippi?

Mississippi medical cannabis dispensary regulations have described disqualifying felony offenses as a conviction for a crime of violence. The definition is given in Miss. code section 97-3-2. Here is the disqualifying felony offenses:

  • Driving under the influence as per sections 63-11-30(5) and 63-11-30(12)(d).
  • Murder & attempts of murder as per sections 97-1-7(2), 97-3-19, 97-3-23 and 97-3-25.
  • Aggravated assault as per sections 97-3-7(2)(a) and (b) and 97-3-7(4)(a)
  • Manslaughter as per sections 97-3-27, 97-3-29, 97-3-31, 97-3-33, 97-3-35, 97-3-39, 97-3-41, 97-3-43, 97-3-45 and 97-3-47;
  • Killing of an unborn child as per section 97-3-37(2)(a) and 97-3-37(2)(b);
  • Kidnapping  section (97-3-53).
  • Human trafficking (section 97-3-54.1)
  • Poisoning section (97-3-61)
  • Rape as per sections (97-3-65) and (97-3-71).
  • Robbery sections (97-3-73) and (97-3-79).
  • Sexual battery (97-3-95)
  • Drive-by shooting or bombing (section 97-3-109)
  • Carjacking (section 97-3-117)
  • Felonious neglect, abuse or battery of a child (Section 97-5-39)
  • Burglary of a dwelling (97-17-23 and 97-17-37)
  • Use of explosives or weapons of mass destruction (97-37-25)
  • Exploitation of a child (97-5-33)
  • Gratification of lust (97-5-23)
  • Shooting into a dwelling (97-37-29)

The Bottom Line:

Being a prior felony convict surely doesn’t leave a wide door of employment opportunities. But pardon, good moral conduct clause and expungement can help you to get your life back on track. However, being qualified for these approvals isn’t as easy as you think, but they are not impossible at all, surely time-consuming though. Perhaps, many states are also working on creating policies to help convicted members of communities that have been affected by the nation’s decades-long war on drugs.

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