New Zealand officials say anti-vaccination protesters seeded cannabis during a three-week occupation. Seeded Weed National Weed and Seed Program — U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office for Weed and Seed The U.S. Department of Justice’s Weed and Seed program was developed to Governor Hochul announced the first-in-the-nation Seeding Opportunity Initiative, which will position individuals with prior cannabis-related criminal offenses to make the first adult-use cannabis sales with products grown by New York farmers.
After the Protesters Left, an Illicit Weed Began Growing in Parliament’s Garden
New Zealand officials say anti-vaccination protesters seeded cannabis during a three-week occupation.
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Anti-vaccine protesters left trash and other surprises outside Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand, this month. Credit. Mike Scott/New Zealand Herald, via Associated Press
When anti-vaccination protesters finally cleared out of New Zealand’s Parliament grounds after a three-week occupation, they left behind a scene of destruction and disorder — the charred remains of a children’s playground, camping equipment and human waste, among other items.
This week, a man eating lunch in the Parliament garden spotted something else left behind by protesters — cannabis seedlings nestled among the brassicas and marigolds.
The unidentified man told Radio New Zealand, the national broadcaster, that he might not have “inhaled” back in university, but he had a “fairly good idea” what kind of plants were sprouting “just meters away from the debating chamber.”
The discovery prompted a swift operation by groundskeepers to find, uproot and destroy the plants sneakily seeded in the Parliament’s garden in the capital, Wellington.
“We are weeding out the weed,” Trevor Mallard, the speaker of Parliament, assured New Zealanders in a statement.
The discovery raised questions about what other surprises protesters might leave behind as a new anti-vaccination group took to social media to plan another protest for Friday.
A representative for the grounds told the national broadcaster that “a lot” of marijuana seeds had been scattered around by protesters. Seedlings for cilantro, tomatoes, other vegetables and herbs were also left behind. The man who originally found the marijuana plants pronounced it “a shame,” and added, “The law is the law.”
In New Zealand, the possession and manufacture of recreational cannabis remain illegal after 53 percent of voters voted against legalizing marijuana in a 2020 referendum. In the lead-up to the vote, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declined to throw her support behind either side to avoid, she suggested, influencing the outcome. Later, she revealed she had voted in favor of legalization.
The protest over the country’s strict vaccine mandates lasted 23 days and attracted hundreds of people from across the country. The crowd grew to include conspiracy theorists and others who descended on the site to rage against various grievances. What began as a peaceful protest resembling a music festival ended in dramatic and sometimes bloody clashes with the police. Fires broke out. Protesters wielded fire extinguishers, paint-filled projectiles and other homemade weapons. Dozens of officers were injured.
Weeks later, relations between the New Zealand government and protesters against the vaccine mandate remain strained.
Last Wednesday, Ms. Ardern announced that the country would move away from its vaccine requirements and abandon other Covid restrictions, including ending vaccine passes in shops and other venues, even as the Omicron variant has caused widespread outbreaks.
But some groups are pushing for a complete end to those restrictions. A new anti-vaccine group announced plans to protest in Wellington on Friday, prompting workers to put up fences around Parliament and police officers to turn out.
In the end, only a few people showed up to protest at a war memorial near Parliament. The rain had begun to fall — perfect for seedlings but not, apparently, for protesters.
National Weed and Seed Program — U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office for Weed and Seed
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Weed and Seed program was developed to demonstrate an innovative and comprehensive approach to law enforcement and community revitalization, and to prevent and control violent crime, drug abuse, and gang activity in target areas. The program, initiated in 1991, attempts to weed out violent crime, gang activity, and drug use and trafficking in target areas, and then seed the target area by restoring the neighborhood through social and economic revitalization. Weed and Seed has three objectives: (1) develop a comprehensive, multiagency strategy to control and prevent violent crime, drug trafficking, and drug-related crime in target neighborhoods; (2) coordinate and integrate existing and new initiatives to concentrate resources and maximize their impact on reducing and preventing violent crime, drug trafficking, and gang activity; and (3) mobilize community residents in the target areas to assist law enforcement in identifying and removing violent offenders and drug traffickers from the community and to assist other human service agencies in identifying and responding to service needs of the target area. To achieve these goals, Weed and Seed integrates law enforcement, community policing, prevention, intervention, treatment, and neighborhood restoration efforts. The Weed and Seed program is being implemented in more than 150 communities across the country.
The Executive Office for Weed and Seed (EOWS) within the Office of Justice Programs is responsible for overall program policy, coordination, and development. EOWS also serves to enhance the law enforcement and prosecution coordination among Federal, State, and local agencies, and coordinates with other cooperating programs and agencies such as Ameri-Corps, Empowerment Zones/Enterprise Communities, and the Comprehensive Communities Program.
Paul Casagrande, Program Manager
Executive Office for Weed and Seed
U.S. Department of Justice
810 Seventh Street NW., Sixth Floor
Washington, DC 20531
Governor Hochul Announces The Office of Cannabis Management Seeding Opportunity Initiative
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the first-in-the-nation Seeding Opportunity Initiative, which will position individuals with prior cannabis-related criminal offenses to make the first adult-use cannabis sales with products grown by New York farmers. This farm-to-store initiative makes sales in New York possible before the end of 2022, jumpstarts New York’s Cannabis Industry, guarantees support for future equity applicants, and secures an early investment into communities most impacted by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition.
“New York State is making history, launching a first-of-its-kind approach to the cannabis industry that takes a major step forward in righting the wrongs of the past,” Governor Hochul said. “The regulations advanced by the Cannabis Control Board today will prioritize local farmers and entrepreneurs, creating jobs and opportunity for communities that have been left out and left behind. I’m proud New York will be a national model for the safe, equitable and inclusive industry we are now building.”
The Cannabis Control Board at its meeting today advanced two components of the Seeding Opportunity Initiative.
First, it advanced to public comment regulations for Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries. As part of the Seeding Opportunity Initiative, this subset of dispensaries must be owned by equity-entrepreneurs with a prior cannabis-related criminal offense who also have a background owning and operating a small business. They will be the first to open and make sales in New York State, establishing equity-owned businesses at the front-end of New York’s adult-use market.
Second, the Board approved a license application for hemp farmers seeking to grow adult-use cannabis this spring – called the Adult-Use Conditional Cultivator License. The license was made possible by legislation Governor Hochul signed last month. The Board designated March 15 as the opening date for the application portal.
Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright said, “Our state’s Cannabis Law sets a high goal for creating an equitable industry that puts New Yorkers first. The Seeding Opportunity Initiative puts us on a path for achieving that goal and hopefully models a way forward for reaching those goals while building a stable market. I am thankful for the support of Governor Hochul and the Legislature, which made it possible for us to get this initiative off the ground quickly, establish a supply chain from our farmers to equity, retailers, and generate the resources to help revitalize communities that were harmed by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition.”
Cannabis Control Board Member Jen Metzger said, “The Seeding Opportunity Initiative truly sets New York’s program apart from other states that have legalized adult-use, by starting out of the gate with an equity- and sustainability-led program that will supply equity entrepreneur-owned dispensaries with sun-grown cannabis products, It is a great start to building a new industry in which small businesses can thrive and generational wealth can be created.”
Adam Perry, Cannabis Control Board Member said, “Shaping the New York cannabis industry and putting social equity entrepreneurs at the forefront is a historic opportunity to address the harm caused by cannabis prohibition and fully implement the goals of New York’s Cannabis Law. This is the right start for the industry and I look forward to continuing to work with our team to support all license types to ensure we’re not only delivering licenses to social equity entrepreneurs, but also setting them up for success over the long-haul.”
Jessica Garcia, Cannabis Control Board Member said, “Positioning justice-involved equity-entrepreneurs as the first to make sales puts New York on the right track to meet the goals of the New York Cannabis Law while providing protections to workers in the industry by creating pathways to union cannabis careers. This is a big, first step forward for the cannabis industry we’re building in New York – it’s an important one and it’s only the beginning.”
Reuben McDaniel, III, New York State Cannabis Control Board member and President and CEO of DASNY said, “Our work to create the new cannabis industry in New York is structured to develop successful entrepreneurs in black and brown communities across New York, expand access to capital for those who have been denied, and establish a cannabis industry that leads the nation in health and safety, and in equity, as well. We look forward to continuing our work with the Legislature to develop the funding mechanism that will support New York’s equity entrepreneurs in an exciting new sector of our economy.”
Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) Executive Director Chris Alexander said, “With the Seeding Opportunity Initiative, we are now on the path to doing what no state has done before: Put our farmers and equity entrepreneurs, not big, out of state businesses, at the forefront of the launch of our adult-use cannabis market. Thanks to the support of Governor Hochul and the action taken by the Board today, we’ve made a huge advancement in our efforts to prioritize New York’s small farmers, our equity entrepreneurs, and ultimately our goal to generate the resources that will support future equity applicants and drive investments into our communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition. We aren’t stopping here and work is already underway across all license types to open access to capital and develop supporting networks to build an equitable New York Cannabis Industry and setup our small businesses for long-term success.”
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “With this announcement, we are doing what no other state has done by focusing on the people most criminalized by cannabis prohibition, and promoting New York farmers. The cannabis industry is going to grow our economy and create new wealth, and it is imperative that we make sure that opportunities begin with the most deserving New Yorkers. I commend Governor Hochul, the Cannabis Control Board, and the Office of Cannabis Management for taking these steps to implement the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in a manner consistent with the intent of the legislation.”
Senator Liz Krueger said, “The initiatives announced by the Governor today will help to ensure that the equity and justice goals of the MRTA will be met, and that New York farmers and small businesses will serve as the foundation of the legal cannabis market. The MRTA was designed not only to end the failed war on drugs in New York, but specifically to take positive action to help rebuild those communities that were most harmed by prohibition. Offering the first retail licenses to people who have been convicted of marijuana-related offenses is a big step in the right direction, and will set the marketplace on a path where social equity applicants can compete successfully.”
The Seeding Opportunity Initiative is composed of three programs:
- Equity Owners Lead Program : Provides a Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary License to eligible equity-entrepreneur applicants, putting them at the front-end of the adult-use market. This first-round, equity-licensing opportunity will be supported with renovated or renovation-ready retail locations and wraparound services with dispensaries sited in high-traffic areas.
Applications for these priority licenses will open in the Summer of 2022. The first licenses are expected to be distributed by late summer or early fall 2022. This positions equity-entrepreneur-owned dispensaries to make the first adult-use cannabis sales in New York State by the end of 2022 while speeding the delivery of investments into communities across the state that were most impacted by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition.
The Board today directed the OCM to post for public comment the proposed regulations for the Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary License. Under the proposed regulations, to be eligible for this initial license, applicants must:
- Have a cannabis-related offense that occurred prior to the passage of the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA) on March 31, 2021 , or had a parent, guardian, child, spouse, or dependent with a pre-MRTA cannabis offense in the State of New York.
- Have experience owning and operating a qualifying business in the State of New York.
Additionally, the regulations include information for what application materials will be needed to apply for a Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary License and sets the parameters for how the Office will review and evaluate applications. A subsequent regulation package will outline the requirements for safely operating a retail dispensary.
- Farmers First Program : Provides an Adult-Use Conditional Cultivator License to eligible New York cannabinoid hemp farmers, giving them the first chance to grow cannabis for New York’s adult-use market. Farmers must adhere to quality assurance, health, and safety requirements developed by the OCM. They must also take part in sustainability and equity mentorship programs that will help build the first generation of equity cannabis owners across the entire supply chain. These conditional licenses make it possible for farmers to grow cannabis in the 2022 growing season.
The Board today approved the application for the Adult-Use Conditional Cultivator License and set the opening of the application portal for March 15. The license was made possible by legislation recently signed by Governor Hochul on February 22. Further information on eligibility requirements and what’s allowed with the license can be found here .