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Don’t Forget, The State’s Legal Weed Rollout Is Also in Chaos

And more links for your Tuesday morning browsing pleasure.

(Hell Gate)

On Monday, Governor Kathy Hochul announced three new leadership appointments to the Office of Cannabis Management, the state agency created to implement and regulate the legal cannabis rollout in New York state—part of a continuing shakeup at the agency in the wake of an unflattering Office of Government Services report about the OCM, commissioned by the governor and released in early May. A little more than two weeks after the report, OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander resigned.

Hochul framed the findings in the OGS report—a month-long audit that revealed hiring struggles, poor communication with licensees and license applicants, and software mishaps—as indicators that the OCM needed to head in a "new direction" in order to create a thriving cannabis industry in the state. These appointments are apparently harbingers of that new direction. Two of the appointees, Acting Executive Director Felicia A.B. Reid and Chief Administration Officer Susan Filburn, come to the OCM from other state agencies. The third, Director of External Affairs Jessica Woolford, previously worked as the OCM's Director of Communications. 

But state legislators, former OCM employees and industry advocacy groups have voiced concerns that the governor is trying to scapegoat Alexander, and by extension the OCM, for all of the legal cannabis rollout woes, in an effort to steer the industry away from the equity focus at the forefront of the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which Alexander was instrumental in developing. "I know for a fact that [Alexander] was consistently asking for more staff and more help, and they were completely ignored," State Senator Liz Krueger, a co-author of the law that legalized cannabis in New York, told the New York Times in May

And as the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition has pointed out, the governor has not directed the same level of scrutiny towards the Dormitory Authority, a different state agency that took out a risky private equity loan to establish a Social Equity Fund that should have helped equity licensees rent retail space across the state—something that encouraged people already harmed by the state's war on drugs to take out loans with extremely high interest rates to pay for inflated construction costs by a state agency. 

Like the MTA's massive budget hole that the governor has now created by "pausing" congestion pricing, the governor has seemingly once again found a scapegoat, thrown up her hands at the chaos, and decided we all need to find out who did this to the state's legal weed rollout. That's leadership. 

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