If Kathy Hochul, the new Governor of New York has her way, the resignation and departure of disgraced New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, will NOT delay the anticipated 2022 roll out of a commercial adult-use cannabis market in the Empire State.
Despite signing the law which legalized adult use cannabis in March, Cuomo has never been a proponent of regulated adult use. So perhaps it is not surprising that Cuomo left office without fully establishing the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) and without appointing any members to the Cannabis Control Board (CCB), the bodies tasked with drafting license applications and regulating the adult use market. The general political disruption in Albany and the transition to a new administration caused by Cuomo’s departure, is likely to further prolong executive action around the OCM and CCB.
However, Cuomo’s failure to take meaningful action to advance a legalized cannabis market may have a bright side, because that task now falls to Kathy Hochul, who has been described as a political outsider, who lacks the name recognition among voters or the political capital in Albany to run a successful election campaign in 2022. Hochul could certainly benefit politically if she is able to harness public and political support for a legal commercial cannabis market to raise her profile among both voters and state legislators. Hochul has also spoken about the need to establish an equitable and robust adult use market in New York. Back in January 2021, Hochul tweeted “[i]t’s time to finally legalize recreational marijuana and create an equitable adult-use cannabis program that generates much-needed revenue for New York.” In an early 2021 interview with media outlet Cheddar, Hochul is quoted as saying, “[We] want to make sure that communities of color will understand exactly what’s involved in applying for these licenses as soon as they’re available”. These statements are encouraging, particularly in light of New York’s social aggressive social equity goals for the adult use market and the budget pitfalls caused by Covid-19.
On August 26, 2021, just two days after taken office, Hochul’s office issued a statement, affirming that appointing members of the CCB is a priority. And on September 1, 2021, Hochul appointed former New York Assemblywoman, Tremaine Wright to Chair the CCB; and former Drug Policy Alliance staffer, Christopher Alexander as the Executive Director of the OCM. Both appointments were confirmed by the State Senate. At the press conference where Hochul announced the appointments, she reiterated that getting the cannabis market moving in New York is important to her administration.