Following last week’s two appointments to the new New York State Cannabis Management Office, local experts and New York Cannabis United (NYCU) members Michelle Smoler, Tosin Ajayi and Ryan Lepore weighed in on the progress of the Governor Kathy Hochul so far, and the need to fill the New York Cannabis Control Board before NY can get down to business. Check out their full editorial (and bios) below.
On Wednesday, September 1, the New York State Senate called a special session to appoint Tremaine Wright and Chris Alexander to head the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), the regulatory agency responsible for launching the industry. legal cannabis in New York. This announcement marks the end of a six-month delay after the momentous passage of the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) and signals to New Yorkers that our new Governor Kathy Hochul, unlike her predecessor, is serious about the implementation of this historic cannabis. legislation. But with 4 seats still vacant on New York’s Cannabis Control Board (CCB), the job is far from over.
As the new chairman and executive director of CCB and CMO, respectively, Wright and Alexander bring years of commitment to public service and a track record for maintaining the integrity of the cannabis industry. The MRTA is celebrated as the most progressive cannabis legalization bill in the country, and it is only with the right leadership that all of the legal protections, benefits and societal impacts of this law will be realized. . The new leaders of OCM will collectively write the rules and regulations that will govern the New York cannabis industry in the future using their discretion and interpretations of the law. Even with two well-known leaders at the helm, the future of New York’s adult consumption industry – whether it serves as a fresh start or continues to stigmatize the cannabis plant and those who grow, process, sell it. and consume it – is still in play.
We must continue to appoint leaders in the CMO who will use their position to defend the intention of the MRTA and offer New Yorkers the industry we fought for. Establishing a cannabis regulatory framework in New York anchored in justice, equity, and sustainability will not only disrupt decades of BIPOC trauma caused by unjust state drug policies, but could also halt the perpetual horrors of Prohibition experienced across the country.
Every day without this framework in place prolongs the cycle of trauma and criminalization, exposing traditional market operators to law enforcement and denying New Yorkers access to effective, affordable drugs and harm reduction resources. that they need. In the absence of responsible leadership, interest groups with money and access will continue to shape the cannabis landscape as they see fit, and New York will be the last in the United States to build an industry. who will take care of lining the pockets of the most privileged among us.
With Hochul’s focus turned to cannabis and two seats already confirmed at the CMO, cannabis advocates must continue to make our priorities unmistakable. We will not support CMO candidates nominated for political convenience. New Yorkers are demanding leaders committed to the vision of the New York cannabis industry outlined in the law – leaders who will place the interests of women and candidates from minorities, small businesses, financially troubled farmers and communities affected by prohibition to the fore and will make training, education and provision of resources to these groups a priority.
We need visionary leaders, who will understand the damage large-scale indoor cultivation will inflict on our climate, our natural and built environments and make regenerative and environmentally sustainable practices the industry standard from the very first moment. day ; leaders who understand how to turn New York’s existing multi-billion dollar market into a legal framework and establish realistic pathways for incumbents and equity seekers to enter the new industry. Above all, these leaders need to recognize how overly complex and punitive regulatory frameworks have undermined the efforts of other states to make their cannabis industries fair and inclusive.
New York has no shortage of qualified candidates and the Hochul administration should work with those who have fought tirelessly to pass the MRTA to identify the right people to move the industry forward. If the governor and lawmakers can commit to quickly appointing the remaining regulators and establishing a clear 18-month plan, we can create a fully functioning cannabis industry in New York that is close to the original timeline.
By selecting Tremaine Wright and Chris Alexander to lead cannabis sales in New York City, Governor Hochul has shown a commitment to the intent of our cannabis law beyond the expectations set by former Governor Cuomo. We count on her to continue to defend this moment with the urgency and transparency it deserves and we too, as players in the design of the cannabis market in New York, will continue to advocate for smart candidates and avant-garde to lead the Office of Cannabis. Management. The groundwork has been laid – if we continue to work together, we can ensure the success of the emerging cannabis industry in New York City.
Michelle Smoler is a medical cannabis patient and president of NYU CannaPolicy at NYU Wagner specializing in public policy. Tosin Ajayi is a co-owner of CBD Holistic Remedies, LLC, and is an alumnus of NYU Wagner where she founded NYU CannaPolicy and specialized in nonprofit management. Ryan Lepore is Interim Executive Director of NYC NORML, Member of the Board of Directors of Empire State Norml and Director of Business Development at PrestoDoctor.
Together, they represent a dedicated group of New York cannabis law reform and advocacy organizations, trade associations, businesses, farmers, aspiring entrepreneurs and concerned people who make up New York. York Cannabis United (NYCU).