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Cannabis Rollout Hampered by Inexperienced Leadership, N.Y. Report Finds

A startup-like culture at the state cannabis agency has contributed to “confusion, difficulty and delay” in the rollout of the state’s legal market, according to a report set to be released on Friday.

The report by a state task force examining a licensing backlog at the Office of Cannabis Management found that inexperienced agency leadership, constantly changing policies and guidance, and a lack of transparency were among the internal problems hobbling the agency’s ability to issue more licenses and help more businesses open.

The review, which was ordered by Gov. Kathy Hochul in March after she declared the rollout a “disaster,” paints the clearest picture yet of a licensing process that has been criticized as clunky and opaque. It also outlines ways to clear roadblocks that have helped the illicit market steal the advantage the state had intended for small businesses and people who were harmed by the war on drugs.

There are just 122 licensed recreational dispensaries open across the state, while officials say the number of illicit shops in New York City alone has nearly doubled to 2,900. At the end of April, nearly 4,900 applications for retail and craft businesses were still waiting to be reviewed, some from as far back as August 2022.

Jeanette Moy, the commissioner of the Office of General Services, who led the review, said that 90 percent of applicants for cannabis businesses had failed to secure licenses, a staggering figure that she said indicated significant deficiencies in how the agency operated.

“In order to make sure that equity works, policy is important but operations is critical,” she said in an interview. “We have to fix the process. We have to clear the backlog. We need to get these legal cannabis stores up and going.”

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