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New York is Making Huge Changes to its Office of Cannabis Management

That includes the ouster of Chris Alexander, who served as the agency's first executive director.

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iStock/Bulat Silvia

New York Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a series of significant changes to the state’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) after the state has struggled to prop up its legal market and stifle a growing illicit cannabis market.

She put the blame for New York’s rocky cannabis rollout on multiple targets. Some, she said, we’re out of their control, like litigation from “out-of-state mega corporations trying to undermine our goals, that actually set us back nine months.”

But she admitted that several issues were internal.

“I’ve been frank with New Yorkers that I’m not satisfied. I even used the word ‘disaster’ to describe the status quo,” Hochul said before diving into details of an OCM overhaul based on the findings of a recently published review.

That overhaul includes the departure of Chris Alexander, who helped draft the original adult-use cannabis legalization legislature and who served as the OCM’s first executive director. Alexander will continue working with the OCM until his current term ends in September, at which time he’ll leave the agency.

Hochul said the agency’s top priority is unclogging the licensing bottleneck and immediately reviewing hundreds of applications that have been waiting for answers. She said the OCM will streamline the application process for applicants, who are required to have a lease, leaving many stuck paying rent on empty storefronts while they wait for approval. Going forward, she promised the process would be more transparent and that one point person would be assigned to each outstanding application.

Second, she said the OCM would launch a Cannabis Map to help applicants find locations for stores and allow the public to verify which stores are legal. The OCM will also post regulatory bulletins for the public and hold statewide listening sessions to let the public comment on ways to improve the market.

Finally, she said, her administration will transform OCM itself.

“It’s past time for OCM to move from a startup mode into a fully operational regulatory agency, one with stronger internal controls and a reconceived organizational structure,” she said.

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