Gov. Kathy Hochul addressing constituents. Photo credit: Office of the Governor of New York.
This August, New York welcomed its newest leader, Gov. Kathy Hochul. Since replacing Andrew Cuomo, Gov. Hochul has made moves to extend the statewide eviction moratorium, launched a vaccination campaign, and started appointing members to the state’s cannabis control board.
Like her predecessor Andrew Cuomo, Hochul supports cannabis legalization. But unlike Cuomo, she is prioritizing implementation of the statewide adult-use cannabis market.
Cannabis in New York in 2021
The statewide recreational market was made legal on March 31st, 2021 after Cuomo signed S854, a bill allowing New Yorkers to legally possess, and tax and regulate cannabis. Additionally, it created “automatic expungement of previous marijuana convictions that would now be legal,” said Cuomo in an announcement on the topic.
Cuomo also said that, once the state launches the legal market, he expects upwards of $350 million a year in sales of recreational weed. The state also aims to give 50% of licenses to those most affected by the War on Drugs.
The final bill, according to the state Senate, “establishes the framework to build a well-regulated industry that will replace the illegal market, prevent domination by large existing players, and ensure that consumers know exactly what they are getting when they purchase cannabis.”
To ensure that, officials will create an Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), which evaluates license applications. The OCM will include a Cannabis Control Board (CCB) of five members; Hochul will elect three.
The bill also establishes a Cannabis Advisory Board “representing a broad range of communities of interest, which will be responsible for approving grants from the Community Reinvestment Fund as well as making policy recommendations and reporting on the state of the cannabis program,’ according to the bill.
While these regulatory agencies are essential in jump-starting and regulating the legal industry, Cuomo failed to appoint anyone to run them. Consequently, this delay sets the state back months on its fall 2022 launch date.
“It’s Time […]”
Hochul has a track record of supporting cannabis legalization. For example, in January 2021, she made her stance on cannabis clear. In a tweet, she wrote, “it’s time to finally legalize recreational marijuana and create an equitable adult-use cannabis program that generates much-needed revenue for New York.”
On August 24th, Hochul officially stepped into her role as governor of New York. Among her priorities was appointing members to regulatory committees, including the OCM’s Cannabis Control Board.
It wasn’t long before she made good on that promise. On August 26th, she made her first appointments, and soon after, the Senate approved her picks.
According to the governor’s office, Tremaine Wright will serve as chair of New York’s CCB; and Christopher Alexander as executive director of the OCM.
Wright is an assemblywoman, lawyer and small business owner. Alexander is a policy expert who helped draft New Yorks adult-use law (S854).
“One of my top priorities is to finally get New York’s cannabis industry up and running – this has been long overdue, but we’re going to make up for lost time with the Senate confirmation of [Wright and Alexander],” Gov. Hochul said in an announcement by her office. She further stated:
“These two individuals bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to their new roles, and I know they will do a tremendous job of outlining and implementing regulations that are safe, fair and transparent, and that recognize the need to remedy the impact that prohibition has had on communities of color. I look forward to working with them on building our state’s cannabis industry and effecting real change for New Yorkers.”
While still months behind, the appointments bring the state closer to introducing legal adult-use retail sales.
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