It was confirmed that Governor Kathy Hochul named Chris Alexander to be the Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management. Alexander is the government relations and policy director at the cannabis company Vill LLC, a Multi-State Cannabis Company based in Canada. He was also an Associate Counsel in the New York State Senate and Policy Coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance.
At a webinar in May Alexander was quoted as saying, “What we have in terms of our social economic equity program is really an MWBE program on steroids, essentially, where we’re really trying to target the folks who want to access the market. That includes people who have been impacted by prohibition, that includes people who live in communities that have been over policed. For marijuana possession offenses, that includes you know, social and economically disadvantaged farmers who are struggling to keep, you know, products flowing and keep their industry alive.”
Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance said, “By moving swiftly to establish the adult use cannabis program after delays under her predecessor and nominating leaders who have long been involved in the fight for marijuana justice in New York, Governor Hochul is sending a strong signal that the landmark racial and economic justice provisions we fought so hard for in the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act will be taken seriously and implemented accordingly.
“We applaud the nominations of Chris Alexander, who she has nominated for Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management, and former Assembly member Tremaine Wright, who she picked for Chair of the Cannabis Control Board. They both understand the deep harm that criminalization has caused to individuals and communities – especially communities of color – across the state. Their past work has reflected a commitment to working with people who have been directly impacted by prohibition and demonstrated a belief in evidence-based policies that center equity and justice.”
In addition to Alexander, Tremaine Wright will be named Chair of the Board. Wright is a former representative for the 56th District of the New York State Assembly, which includes parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. Wright ran for State Senate in 2020, but lost to Jabari Brisport. Wright has been active in the New York cannabis scene for years fighting for legalization. She is currently the Director of the Office of Financial Inclusion and Empowerment in the NYS Department of Financial Services.
The process to get the New York legal adult-use market established was stalled by a lack of enthusiasm by former Governor Cuomo. When the Governor resigned following a sexual harassment scandal, many had hoped that the process would gain steam and that looks to be the case. “Nominating and confirming individuals with diverse experiences and subject matter expertise, who are representative of communities from across the state, to the Cannabis Control Board is a priority for Gov. Hochul,” spokesperson Jordan Bennett told The New York Post a week ago. “We look forward to working with the legislature to keep this process moving forward.”
The Senate would still need to confirm the appointments, but insiders say they don’t expect any opposition to these two individuals.