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Jeanette Moy will oversee repair of New York's broken legal cannabis rollout

Jeanette Moy, the commissioner of the state’s Office of General Services.
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New York State Office of General Services
Jeanette Moy, the commissioner of the state’s Office of General Services.

Gov. Kathy Hochul this week took charge of New York’s troubled recreational cannabis rollout, appointing one of her top commissioners to temporarily oversee the process. 

Hochul asked Jeanette Moy, the commissioner of the state’s Office of General Services, to overhaul the state’s Office of Cannabis Management, or OCM, which is widely viewed as having botched the transition to adult recreational marijuana sales. 

Moy also will be looking at whether an alleged incident of retaliation by an agency official against a cannabis business owner is part of a larger pattern.

New York legalized recreational cannabis in 2021. By the end of 2023, just 24 dispensaries were open out of a target of more than 150.

Moy said her top priority is to plow through the backlog of applications to get the legal stores open faster.

“I think all of us want this to be successful.” Moy said.

The delays stemmed from bureaucratic issues, including a poorly functioning online application process. Additionally, a lawsuit last August stalled for months the issuance of licenses for those who were adversely affected by the decades-long prohibition on cannabis.

As a result, licensed cannabis growers were stuck with fields full of product that they could not legally sell. Applicants for retail licenses faced months, if not years, of red tape.

Moy said the experience also needs to be streamlined and more transparent for applicants.

“Are there ways that we can cut through some of the red tape that exists?” Moy asked. “And even the basics of customer service — making sure that an applicant has better clarity as to how long it's going to take in order to get that license approval.”

Moy said she knows “the stakes are very high.”

“Some of them have been waiting for quite some time in order to get their businesses up and running,” she said. “I'm hoping in the next few weeks we'll be able to have a very solid … plan and a way to move forward.”

Moy also addressed accusations of improper retaliation by Damian Fagon, OCM’s chief equity officer, who was placed on leave after a cannabis grower accused him of shutting down her business after she repeatedly criticized the botched rollout. 

The publication Cannabis Insider first reported that news. 

Moy said she’s not involved in that investigation, but she said she will be trying to determine whether that was an isolated incident or part of a larger pattern.

“If there is something that is systemic, then we will absolutely address it,” Moy said. “If there are bad actors, we will absolutely address it.”

Moy wouldn’t say whether anyone at OCM needs to be replaced, but she said that is on the table.

The commissioner said she’s also examining whether the state’s laws need to be changed or strengthened to shutter the hundreds of illegal cannabis shops that have flourished while the legal retail rollout foundered.

Moy will oversee the cannabis agency for at least 30 days and report back to Hochul with recommendations for change. She will also set specific three-month and six-month goals to get it back on track.

“We are going to find a path and we are going to fix it,” Moy said.

In a statement related to the governor’s announcement on Monday, OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander said, “We have built a cannabis market based on equity, and there is a lot to be proud of.”

But he acknowledged that there was room for improvement.

“We owe it to operators across the supply chain and consumers alike, who are looking for more access and opportunity in our budding, regulated market,” he said.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.