NYSBA Launches ‘Cannabis Institute’ To Educate Attorneys, Members of the Public on New Cannabis Law

By Susan DeSantis

December 6, 2021

NYSBA Launches ‘Cannabis Institute’ To Educate Attorneys, Members of the Public on New Cannabis Law


By Susan DeSantis

Cutting-Edge Initiative Will Include Matching Lawyers With New Yorkers Who Need Pro Bono Assistance In Navigating Expungement Process 

The New York State Bar Association today is announcing the launch of its Cannabis Institute, an ongoing series of programs on New York’s recently-enacted Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which has been widely hailed as one of the most progressive cannabis laws in the nation. The Institute will educate attorneys, policy makers, and members of the public on the implications and impact of the new law, touching on topics such as equity, labor law, social justice and more.

The effort will kick off on Wednesday, Dec. 15, with back-to-back virtual events focused on the expungement of certain cannabis-related crimes that are no longer classified as criminal offenses under the MRTA. Though the expungement process is automatic and by law must be undertaken by the Office of Court Administration over a period of two years, it is not without complications and, in some cases, legal representation is still advised.

The first event will be a Continuing Legal Education course for attorneys interested in learning the ins and outs of the expungement process. The second will be a forum – free to the public and open to all interested participants – at which legal experts will discuss expungement in laymen’s terms and field questions.  Sen. Jeremy A. Cooney, who was instrumental in getting the state’s marijuana legislation passed, will be the featured speaker.

The CLE will be underwritten in part by Ascend Wellness Holdings (AWH), a multi-state, cannabis operator that has assets and partners in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, and is working to expand its operations into New York.

AWH will contribute $10,000 to cover the CLE fees of up to 200 attorneys who agree, in turn, to take on up to three cannabis expungement-related pro bono cases in the coming year.

“There has been significant interest in New York’s burgeoning cannabis landscape since the signing of the MRTA, and NYSBA aims to be a leader in helping lawyers and everyday New Yorkers alike get up to speed on all the many nuances of the new law,” said New York State Bar Association President T. Andrew Brown, who is also president of AWH New York.

“The MRTA has been widely hailed as one of the most progressive cannabis laws in the nation for its far-reaching equity requirements that aim to ensure that communities disproportionately impacted by the misguided War on Drugs benefit from adult-use legalization. AWH is positioning itself to be a leader in the equity space, and I am proud to be able to provide this unique opportunity to benefit New Yorkers seeking to navigate the expungement process.”

Emma Goodman, an attorney with The Legal Aid Society of New York City; and Vicki Belstadt, an attorney with JustCause (formerly the Volunteer Legal Service Project in Monroe County), will be the instructors for the CLE.

The public forum will be moderated by NYSBA President Brown, with participation by Goodman; Lynelle K. Bosworth, shareholder at Greenberg Traurig and co-chair of NYSBA’s Committee on Cannabis Law; and Buffalo Urban League President Thomas Beauford, Jr.

Topics addressed at the forum will include:

  • Which convictions are automatically expunged under the MRTA?
  • Expungement restrictions
  • How to confirm that records have been expunged
  • What does this mean for job seekers?
  • Instances in which an individual with a cannabis conviction might need legal representation
  • How expungement is different from vacating convictions

Registration for both events is required. Information is as follows:

Expungement of Cannabis Convictions
Wednesday, December 15th, 12:00 – 2:00 p.m.
2.0 MCLE Credit in Areas of Professional Practice

Cannabis Conviction on Your Record? What You Need to Know Now about Expungement
Wednesday, December 15, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
Free Public Informational Forum

Participant bios:

Sen. Jeremy A. Cooney: The state senator was named co-chair of the Marijuana Task Force for the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus and was one of the key players in getting adult-use recreational marijuana legalized in New York.

Vicki Belstadt is a staff attorney at JustCause, formerly the Volunteer Lawyer Services Project, where she focuses on civil legal matters. She also coordinates services between clients and pro bono attorneys in Monroe County.

Thomas Beauford Jr. is the president and chief executive officer of the Buffalo Urban League. Prior to assuming this post at the end of August 2021, Beauford worked for more than 20 years in the financial services industry, most recently at MT&T Bank, where he was a vice president in the risk management and regulatory affairs division.

Lynelle K. Bosworth is a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig, where she focuses her practice on government law and policy issues and advises clients on renewable energy, environmental, transportation, finance, racing and gaming, insurance, and health care related matters. She co-chairs NYSBA’s Committee on Cannabis Law.

Emma Goodman is an experienced criminal defense attorney at The Legal Aid Society specializing in record sealing and expungement. She began her career working for seven years as a fully certified trial attorney in the Manhattan office before moving to the Special Litigation Unit in 2017. When New York’s criminal record sealing law went into effect in October 2017, Emma founded Case Closed, an initiative aimed at raising awareness about the law.

About the New York State Bar Association

The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, NYSBA has helped shape the development of law, educated, and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.


Contact: Susan DeSantis
[email protected]

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