When New Yorkers, from Buffalo to Brooklyn, feel like they are not being treated on the level, they get upset. And that goes for the state’s chief executive, too. Governor Kathy Hochul voiced her displeasure with the New York cannabis program last month, which celebrates its three-year anniversary next month. The governor bluntly said she is fed up with this rollout and called it a “disaster.” And only she can fix it.

Speaking Out About New York's Cannabis Program

I have been outspoken about this “disaster,” and trust me, I am getting sick of myself too at this point. But why do I press on? Because good people across New York State who I have worked with over the last five years are apoplectic about this catastrophe, while also terrified to speak up out of fear of retaliation from the Office of Cannabis Management.

Simply put, as someone eloquently said recently, it is hard to watch dreams unravel. Fears of retaliation have merit, as I had one of the OCM regulators attempt to defame me recently. But, I don’t get intimidated easily. If anything, it fires me up.

Since the governor made those truthful comments, it has been unclear what changes will be made to clean up this disaster. Here are some recommendations from the frontlines.

Time For New York Regulators To Fix The Cannabis License Lottery Process

First, instead of certain state regulators using Instagram during the work day, that energy would be better served guaranteeing the recent randomized lottery process was truly unbiased, as it is hard to believe a number of the applicants that applied in the final weeks of the application process are now in the top tier of applications to be reviewed.

Frankly, the November lottery randomized queue is suspect, and something smells fishy. In fact, the lottery is a tough pill for many to swallow. For example, the very first applicant with their own retail dispensary location, who is a social and economic equity applicant, is now ranked in the 1,400s after the state created a Hunger Games-type lottery. This lottery is being used instead of scoring applications based on merit.

Not to mention, the applications for each license type were supposed to be pooled based on the license type sought and SEE certification and further split evenly between New York City and the rest of the state, as the OCM’s Licensing FAQ said would happen. That didn’t happen.

Regulators Should Address Concerns About Social Equity Programs And Resources

And wouldn’t it be more valuable for the OCM Chief Equity Officer to share more about the $5M DASNY opt-out loan program for CAURDs that was announced in June 2023, instead of doing a YouTube show stating that “capitalism in this country has a way of ruining everything beautiful,” and venting his distaste for consultants. Or he could address the concerns about the OCM/DASNY social equity fund preying on New Yorkers with alleged predatory loans. MRTA sponsor & Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes recently said the OCM/DASNY social equity fund’s “rates are a little predatory. I think 13% is too much.” Senator Liz Krueger, a fellow MRTA sponsor, has also expressed concerns that the social equity fund is predatory, and she suggested an investigation to look into that. Ultimately, the New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli needs to audit this fund.

Alex Vitale, the author of “The End of Policing,” perfectly stated in New York Amsterdam News the solution to NY’s cannabis program disaster. “When you have a legalization regime, like we have — if you make the legalization process too difficult, too expensive, and too restrictive, you risk defeating the purpose, which is to reduce the power of the black market,” said Vitale. “The solution for New York is to get more licenses in the hands of people.”

I will add to that and say, governor, please get rid of this lottery, and issue retail licenses to all New Yorkers with their own locations who do not need the questionable OCM/DASNY loans.

Obviously, we are all thrilled for the 65 legal dispensaries that have opened in New York State (12 of which are delivery only). I pray the owners of these legal dispensaries are overwhelmed with abundant success. But let’s stop ignoring that the state promised 20 dispensaries would open every month in 2023. Sixty-five dispensaries is 27% of last year’s promise. And 65 more illegal dispensaries probably opened since you began reading this.

Join The New York State Cannabis Control Board's Meeting On February 16, 2024

Cannabis Control Board In Troy

The New York State Cannabis Control Board is scheduled to hold a public meeting at 11:00 am this Friday at Hudson Valley Community College, Bulmer Telecommunications Center (BTC), Meeting Rooms 1-3, 80 Vandenburgh Ave., Troy, NY, 12180. I will be there with bells on.

Western New York And Morrisville Locations

Western New Yorkers can join Board Member Adam Perry at 181 Ellicott St., Buffalo, NY, 14203, in a location which you are allowed to access and speak at. Central New Yorkers can join Board Member Jennifer Gilbert Jenkins at SUNY Morrisville, Charlton Hall, Room 104, 80 Eaton St., Morrisville, NY, 13408, which is also a location you can attend and speak from.

To attend the CCB meeting, you must pre-register here. Please be sure to sign up to speak so your voice is heard.

If you are unable to attend the meeting, I encourage everyone to email the CCB and urge them to issue retail licenses to every eligible applicant with a legitimate location they control.

To email the CCB, please contact these public officials at their public email addresses below:






See you Friday.

New York's Cannabis Control Board meets on Friday, February 16, 2024 at 11AM at Hudson Valley Community College, Bulmer Telecommunications Center (BTC), Meeting Rooms 1-3, 80 Vandenburgh Ave., Troy, NY, 12180. Click here to pre-register to attend the meeting in person. A streaming link will be available through the OCM's website.

*A version of this article was originally published by NY Cannabis Insider and is syndicated here with permission from the author.


Written By:

Joe Rossi is the Managing Director and Cannabis Practice Group Leader at Park Strategies LLC, a premier government relations firm in New York State. For more information, visit parkstrategies.com.

@joe_rossi (IG)

@Joe_Rossi_ (Twitter)


Find Out More On Social






Joe Rossi

New York State Office of Cannabis Management


Featured image: The verification QR code New York's Office of Cannabis Management gives to each licensed dispensary (C) Office of Cannabis Management