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Marijuana advocates look to incoming Hochul to speed up state’s legal weed rollout

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Backers of New York’s successful push to legalize recreational marijuana are pinning their hope on incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul to give the stalled rollout process a shot in the arm.

Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo, implementation of New York’s adult-use program has been stuck in neutral, according to Michael Hiller, an attorney specializing in cannabis law. But Hochul’s stance on the legalization of recreational marijuana suggests she will make it a priority when she takes office. “Lt. Gov. Hochul’s approach to legalization, which appears to be motivated by her desire to raise tax revenue, appears to be more genuine and focused,” Hiller said.

Hochul has come out in support of the legalization of recreational marijuana in the past, tweeting in January 2021 that it was time to “create an equitable adult-use cannabis program that generates much-needed revenue for New York.” She also told Cheddar in an interview the same month that “anticipating bringing in about $300 million will help our budget somewhat—not enough—but it'll be a start.”

 

Cuomo, who recently announced his resignation effective Aug. 24 in the face of multiple sexual harassment accusations, has faced criticism for moving too slowly on setting up the state’s regulatory framework for recreational marijuana. He was specifically accused of holding up his nominations for appointees to the Cannabis Control Board and executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management because he first wanted the legislature to approve his leadership overhaul at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

But with Cuomo on his way out, the New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association is hopeful that Hochul will move forward quickly with these appointments.

“The expectation is the new governor appoints this board as one of the first things she does when taking office because the program has kind of slowed to a stop after all of these months,” said NYCGPA President Allan Gandleman, “and if we are to get stores open and businesses built for next spring and summer, we have to start immediately.”

 

Representatives for Hochul and Cuomo did not respond to requests for comment.

New York officially legalized recreational marijuana for adults at the end of March, and sales estimates for the state have exceeded $1 billion. However, those sales cannot happen until a regulatory framework is in place, and the governor’s nominations are a major part of that.

“The appointments need to happen before we see any sort of regulations written,” said NYCGPA Vice Chair and Director of Policy Analysis at Castetter Cannabis Group Kaelan Castetter. That will also be “the first indicator of how well the legislature and governor will work on this issue,” he added.

Some legislators have already signaled that they want to see Hochul move quickly on her marijuana appointments. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said at a news conference following Cuomo’s resignation announcement that setting up the OCM board should be Hochul’s top priority, and state Sen. Liz Krueger sounded a similar note.

"I have not yet had the opportunity to discuss [the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act] with the incoming governor,” Krueger said, “but I look forward to working closely with her to make sure the implementation of the law is swift and done in the right way."

Hochul has already said that she plans to run for a full term as governor next year and is likely to face a slew of competitors. Overseeing a smooth and successful rollout to New York’s recreational marijuana program would be both good for the state and a smart political move, as it would give her an accomplishment to campaign on next year, according to Gandleman.

“If she doesn’t get it done, it would be a big mistake and a big political miss,” he said.
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