Hochul Slammed For ‘Half-Baked’ Legal Pot Rollout

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is being criticized for her administration’s “half baked” efforts to rollout the state’s new recreational cannabis market.

The Coalition for Access to Regulated and Safe Cannabis, which is suing the state over the botched rollout, says it has launched a nearly half-million dollar media campaign aimed at raising awareness about the “failed policies” of the Hochul administration to regulate the recreational cannabis market and “the danger they pose to New Yorkers.”

The group said delays in issuing licenses to qualifying cannabis businesses are feeding black market sales and depriving the state government of revenue from pot taxes.

“Simply put, New York’s cannabis policies are a total failure,” Rev. Kirsten Foy, the group’s spokesman, said in a statement. “As it currently stands the illicit market has metastasized and burgeoned into the full scale of the market that was initially envisioned for the legal license holders.”

The group says the media campaign will include full-page color ads in major New York newspapers and digital ads on social media and other websites.

New York legalized recreational cannabis in 2021 under legislation signed by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, allowing cultivation and retail sales and setting up a system of taxation and regulation for the new industry. To date, about 20 retail pot shops have opened, state regulators say.

Under the law approved by the state Legislature, regulators gave the first retail cannabis licenses to convicted pot dealers as part of a licensing program that is now being challenged in the courts.

Last month, a New York judge halted new cannabis licenses under a program that favors people with previous drug conviction charges following a legal challenge by a group of veterans who argue the system of issuing licenses to certain social equity applicants violates the state Constitution.

The ruling by Supreme Court Justice Kevin Bryant blocked the Office of Cannabis Management from granting new conditional adult-use recreational dispensary licenses or processing existing ones, while the legal challenge plays out.

Meanwhile, illegal storefront operations proliferated over the past year amid the slow rollout of licensed pot shops, prompting calls to Hochul to crackdown on unlicensed sales.

In April, Hochul unveiled a taxpayer-funded public education campaign calling on cannabis users to “buy legal” and urging them to avoid the illegal market.

Despite preliminary estimates projecting sales of more than $1 billion in 2023, state regulators said last month the adult-use sales in New York state have generated only $16.5 million since the first dispensary opened in December.

To date, at least 23 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territory of Guam have legalized recreational marijuana, to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Thirty-eight states have medical marijuana programs.


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