BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Criticism is coming from New York State’s top official Friday, to describe the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM).

In an effort to fix the problems, Governor Kathy Hochul has announced a plan to completely overhaul the OCM.

The governor made promises to streamline the cannabis license process to get more New Yorkers involved with the legal marketplace.

She also wants to create a new task force to shut down illegal cannabis growers and storefronts.

7 News is a voice for everyone and we know there are a lot of opinions around this topic.

So how do voices from our local cannabis industry feel about the governor’s new approach?

7 News’ Pheben Kassahun spoke with a farmer and a retail store to find out what changes they would like to see.

Kevin Halpin said, “The challenges dealing with the OCM stem mainly from transparency. It’s very difficult for us or for any other licensee to have a real good sense of where we stand, particularly in the licensing process.”

Kevin Halpin is the Chief Financial Officer for Empire Hemp Company CFO, in Batavia.

He said the OCM operates as it was intended to but said more could be done to create a functional industry.

Halpin explained, “It’s broken across the supply chain, it’s broken in the economics, it’s broken in relative in enforcement of those that have decided to try and operate as compliant as possible, versus those who have flawed at every role out there. Frankly, the only people that are making money in the industry are those that decided to forego being a legal enterprise and continue to operate in the black and gray market.”

Couple and co-owners Ashley Brown and John Duncan own 716 Cannabis Company, in Blasdell.

The owners feel their cannabis dispensary has not had a fair shot.

“It’s unclear of whose responsibility it is to shut that place down. Is it on the local police, is it on the state police. Is it on the sheriff’s department, is it on OCM? Nobody knows,” Duncan said.

Brown added, “It’s very confusing on the community. It’s very difficult to advise them to go to a legal shop when they really don’t understand or even know the difference. Trying to teach them and break old habits is a challenge for us.”

Both businesses shared their frustrations with Kassahun but are hopeful, as NYS is trying to pivot o-c-m away from its deep seeded issues, including limits to its ability to issue licenses.

“It’s fair to say that New York’s emerging cannabis industry has had plenty of challenges before it. Some of them, beyond our control like litigation from out-of-state corporations trying to undermine our goals that set us back for at least nine months and some are related to challenged within my administration.” Governor Kathy Hochul said Friday, “The many others who have been let down, I want you to know, we’re starting to fix this right now. These are the people the law was intended to benefit and they are the New Yorkers we are fighting for.”

According to Hochul these actions will be taken:

Launching an enforcement task force to close illegal cannabis retail stores.Fixing the internal licensing process and clearing the backlog for retail establishments who were required to apply with site control.Committing to putting in place an SLA (service-level agreement) to allow for completion of retail license applications within 90 days for future application windows.Creating new communications tools, including regulatory bulletins and public dashboards to improve customer service.Launching OCM cannabis map to improve the transparency surrounding licensed retail locations in summer 2024.Adding staff to licensing, compliance and enforcement teams.Strengthening agency foundations and management including hiring senior positions for customer service, internal controls and audit and operations.Creating a 5-year strategic plan for the Office.

Duncan explained, “We just want to be able to have the same opportunity that other businesses have. We are a legal business and cannabis deserves to come out of the shadows. That’s why we’re here. That’s important to do and it’s difficult when a lot of the normal avenues have been closed to you.”

 Criticism is coming from New York State’s top official Friday, to describe the Office of Cannabis Management. In an effort to fix the problems, she announced a plan to completely overhaul the agency.  Read More