On Monday, June 10th, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced three new leadership appointments to the state’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). In a recent statement, it was confirmed that Felicia A.B. Reid will step in as the agency’s Executive Deputy Director and Acting Executive Director; Susan Filburn will assume the role of Chief Administrative Officer; and Jessica Woolford, previously OCM’s Director of Communications, has been promoted to Director of External Affairs. 

Governor Hochul's Overhaul Of New York's Office Of Cannabis Management

These appointments are part of the comprehensive agency overhaul that Governor Hochul ordered in May, following a review by the Office of General Services that charged the department with several operational deficiencies. Upon the report’s publication, the Governor also noted that OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander would not continue in his position once his term expires on September 1st; Alexander tendered his formal resignation on May 24th. 

The steps taken by the Governor to restructure the OCM have been met with a range of responses. Almost immediately after what many saw as a call for Alexander to step down, the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition (CRCC), a national advocacy organization, released a statement condemning Governor Hochul’s decision and emphasizing that the decision not to reinstate him would jeopardize the State’s commitment to an equitable cannabis industry. Several New York licensees, industry stakeholders, and former OCM employees have voiced their gratitude for Alexander’s work in laying the foundation of the agency, as well as being the primary crafter of the state’s Cannabis Law. Others have expressed optimism about the pending changes to the department, hoping that different leadership could alleviate the logjam of license applications “in queue” and alleged spotty communications with applicants. 

Felicia A.B. Reid, incoming OCM Executive Deputy Director (C) New York Office of Children and Family Services

Meet Felicia A.B. Reid, Office Of Cannabis Management's New Executive Deputy Director And Acting Executive Director

Regarding the new appointees, it’s clear that the approach to reforming the OCM will come “from inside.” Felicia A.B. Reid, the incoming Executive Deputy Director and Acting Executive Director, has been in State government for over a decade, with the last 6 years as Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Children and Family Services, where her specialty was overseeing juvenile justice operations. She also has a law degree from New York Law School and is admitted to the State Bar Association. 

"I am excited to work with everyone at OCM and our partners statewide to expand upon the agency’s work, build best internal and external practices, and focus on making New York’s cannabis industry one that meets the needs of small businesses and consumers,” Ms. Reid said. “Cannabis is an enormous opportunity for our state, and OCM is obligated to ensure that its work makes those opportunities accessible, transparent, and responsive to the industry’s movement and trends. I want to thank Governor Hochul for this opportunity and look forward to doing the work with equity as the central-most focus of OCM’s way forward.”

Susan Filburn, OCM's incoming Chief Administrative Officer (C) New York Department of Labor

Meet Susan Filburn, Chief Administrative Officer, And Jessica Woolford, Director Of External Affairs

Susan Filburn, the new Chief Administrative Officer, has more than 20 years of experience in State government, including the last four years as Deputy Commissioner of Employment Security at the Department of Labor. An Army veteran (and West Point graduate), Ms. Filburn served in numerous locations as an Aviation Officer. 

Jessica Woolford, OCM's Director of External Affairs (C) OCM

Jessica Woolford, who brings to the table more than a decade of working for government and social justice organizations, has led OCM’s external communications for the past nine months. In her new role as Director of External Affairs, she will also be responsible for building out the agency’s customer service team. 

What's Next For New York's Office Of Cannabis Management And Cannabis Industry?

Governor Hochul reiterated that the new leadership at the OCM will help continue the department’s commitment to social equity and strengthen New York’s evolving cannabis industry. She also shared that a nationwide search for a permanent Executive Director is underway. 

But one statement made by the Governor illustrated that her priorities for the cannabis space may not be solely on the vision set forth by the Marijuana Reform and Tax Act. 

“I’m committed to ensuring New York’s nation-leading cannabis market continues to thrive,” Governor Hochul said. “With these new appointees, the Office of Cannabis Management will continue to focus on expanding the most equitable adult-use market in the nation while cracking down on illicit storefronts.”

For more about the Office of Cannabis Management, visit cannabis.ny.gov.


Featured image: Governor Kathy Hochul (C) New York Office of the Governor / Empire Government Strategies