In a recent statement, Governor Kathy Hochul of New York has condemned the implementation of marijuana legalization in the state, labeling it a “disaster” and expressing her desire for lawmakers to “start over” with crafting a more effective framework. Despite her frustration, Governor Hochul, a supporter of legalization, acknowledged the unlikelihood of the legislature initiating a complete overhaul.
Governor Hochul voiced her concerns during an interview with The Buffalo News editorial board, stating that the current cannabis law was drafted in a manner that was not conducive to success. She emphasized the urgent need for a more robust regulatory approach to address the challenges posed by the limited number of licensed retailers and the proliferation of unlicensed storefronts.
One major issue highlighted by the governor is the absence of sufficient enforcement provisions in the law, allowing illicit markets to thrive. Hochul advocated for a model similar to tobacco regulation, where local law enforcement can intervene to stop the illegal sale of unlicensed and untaxed products.
The governor attributed part of the licensing challenges to the organizational structure of the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) and the Cannabis Control Board (CCB), expressing frustration over conflicts within the decision-making process. Additionally, she criticized the decision to involve the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) in identifying locations for marijuana business licensees, stating that it was not within their expertise.
Governor Hochul acknowledged that litigation-induced delays, resulting from recently lifted court injunctions, have adversely affected farmers and entrepreneurs who are facing financial losses. Despite her desire for comprehensive reform, she expressed skepticism about the legislature's willingness to make substantial changes to the existing legalization law.
In response to the challenges, Governor Hochul pledged to continue pressuring lawmakers to enhance enforcement authority and advocated for policies aimed at strengthening the regulated market. Her recent budget plan proposes the elimination of a THC potency tax to make the regulated market more competitive against illicit operators.
Despite ongoing frustrations with the slow expansion of the recreational marijuana market, Governor Hochul remains committed to pushing for improvements within the existing framework. The governor's efforts align with recent developments, including a bill filed in the Assembly granting municipal governments the power to shut down unlicensed cannabis businesses. Over a dozen new cannabis retailers opened in December following the lifting of a licensing blockade imposed by a settlement agreement.
This story was first covered by Marijuana Moment.