By Sam Hoyt
The fight for marijuana legalization in New York has just reached a new level of hope with Governor Hochul. With her no-nonsense, get-the-job-done type of leadership, there is no issue too small when it impacts the viability and success of small businesses and she, more than anyone else, understands how new opportunities can positively impact livelihoods and the entire state economy. With a background in grassroot advocacy and pushing for initiatives that impacted the bottom lines for her constituency, she is determined not to let any more dust settle on the recreational cannabis industry impacting hundreds of people looking to grow, process, and retail recreational marijuana and infuse much-needed money into the state economy. It is no surprise that one of her first acts as Governor was to begin appointments to the Office of Cannabis Management necessary to implement the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act.
We can expect a focus on increased efforts when it comes to this long- anticipated industry. Hochul is working to build coalitions and identify partners to help her achieve her goals of the fairest and finest cannabis program in the country. As evidenced by her early and decisive actions regarding the Office of Cannabis Management and Cannabis Control Board, she is working to implement the improvements and expansions to the State’s existing medical cannabis and hemp/CBD programs so that the cannabis industry may reach its full potential here in New York, and upstate farmers can have opportunities in this emerging space. With the recent announcements of those newly appointed to the board of OCM, Reuben R. McDaniel, III and Jessica Garcia, Hochul stated,
“New York’s cannabis industry has stalled for far too long – I am making important appointments to set the Office of Cannabis Management up for success so they can hit the ground running,” Governor Hochul said. “I am confident Mr. McDaniel and Ms. Garcia will serve the board with professionalism and experience as we lead our state forward in this new industry.”
This board will create and implement a comprehensive regulatory framework for New York’s cannabis industry, including the production, licensing, packaging, marketing and sale of cannabis products. They join Tremaine Wright (chair), Jen Metzger and Western NY representative Adam W. Perry in completing the Cannabis Control Board.
On the other side of the coin, there remains the importance of social equity and what these advancements mean for the communities hit hardest by the shortsighted and ineffective “war on drugs.” Based on the appointments made to date and the Governor’s passion for Upstate New York, there is reason to determine that we will begin to see an increase in geographic equity when it comes to the distribution of licenses across the state and the cannabis industries will breathe fresh air into our upstate communities, giving each of them a fair chance to prosper and compete.
Much of what happens next in the industry depends on the regulations that are being developed, and the Governor’s need to balance expediency and sensible policies. Based on what we have seen in the short months leading up to these decisions, there is hope for cannabis industries in New York and the chance to make up for lost time and get licenses out the door as quickly as possible.