Gov. Hochul continues to face backlash over failed cannabis program rollout

Hochul’s stalled rollout leaves millions in tax revenue on the table

September 11, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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As New Yorkers eagerly anticipated a burgeoning legal cannabis market, what has actually transpired is a quagmire of bureaucratic holdups and delayed licensing. More than two years post-legalization, the streets of Brooklyn, New York’s most populous borough, remain conspicuously devoid of any licensed dispensaries.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s cannabis policies are now facing intense scrutiny and criticism. The Coalition for Access to Regulated and Safe Cannabis (CARSC) has initiated a hefty media campaign, investing close to half a million dollars to bring to light what they label as the “failed policies” of the Governor’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM).

Starting this week, stark full-page color ads will be splashed across major publications, including the New York Times, New York Daily News and the Buffalo News. The digital realm won’t be spared either, with ads set to run across several platforms throughout September.

Rev. Kirsten Foy minced no words in his statement: “New York’s cannabis policies are a total failure.” He went on to explain how the state’s adherence to the problematic CAURD (Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries) program has allowed the illicit market not only to persist but to flourish, pushing vetted applicants and established medical cannabis operators into bureaucratic limbo.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Critically, the illicit market isn’t just an economic concern; it’s a public health risk. The state’s inertia has effectively greenlighted a thriving black market, peddling untested, unregulated and untaxed subpar cannabis. In New York City alone, an estimated 2,000 storefronts are reportedly trading in such cannabis.

The CARSC ad pulls no punches, drawing its visual cues from the movie “Half Baked” to present a damning assessment of Hochul’s tenure regarding cannabis. The numbers are just as glaring; while Illinois raked in over $216 million from adult-use cannabis sales in its inaugural year, New York lags far behind, projected to barely touch $48 million.

But it’s not just about the money. As the ad poignantly asks, “Why are there still so few legal dispensaries?” Even as law-abiding New Yorkers and medical operators are eager to dive into the cannabis trade, New York boasts a mere 17 licensed cannabis storefronts, spotlighting a system that’s evidently awry.

With pressure mounting, Hochul is now faced with urgent calls to recalibrate New York’s adult-use cannabis program. Advocates are pressing for more inclusive access, especially for minority and women business owners, veterans, and medical cannabis operators.

Whether or not these powerful ads lead to tangible policy shifts remains to be seen. But one thing’s for certain: The ball is firmly in Hochul’s court.

New York passed The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) on March 31, 2021. Since that time only 18 physical locations have been allowed to open across the state and none of those are located in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, medical marijuana operators in New York have appealed to Gov. Hochul to expand their selling permissions to all adults, beyond just medicinal purposes.

While the recreational market is dead on arrival and the gray market has been allowed to thrive, established medical marijuana sellers believe they can aid the situation, with their infrastructure and reputation ensuring a consistent supply of tested, taxed cannabis products.

The state has put forth rules allowing a limited number of medical stores to sell to the general public by June 30, 2024.

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