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New York’s Cannabis Regulator Sees Multiple New Appointments After Embattled Leader Quit Early

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has appointed a new interim Executive Director of the state’s cannabis regulator after its previous leader was pushed out.

A number of new appointments have been made at the highest level of the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) just weeks after its former Executive Director, Chris Alexander, officially resigned from his post early, leaving the organization without a clear leader.

Felicia A.B. Reid has now been appointed as Executive Deputy Director and Acting Executive Director while a permanent replacement for Alexander is found.

Reid, who has over a decade of experience in State government and is a member of the New York Bar Association, will oversee ‘major operational and regulatory functions of the office including licensing, compliance and enforcement’

“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.”

Alongside Reid, Susan Filburn has been appointed in the newly created position of Chief Administrative Officer, tasked with overseeing the stabalization and formalization of administrative functions in the agency, which has been widely criticized for the handling of New York’s adult-use cannabis roll out so far.

She will also work closely with the licensing and technology teams to implement process improvements to streamline the license review process and improve responsiveness.

Meanwhile, the OCM’s previous Director of Communications, Jessica Woolford, will be promoted to Director of External Affairs where she will ‘ensure that communication and community engagement are prioritized as the agency implements transformational change’.

In May, Business of Cannabis reported that Alexander, who has helmed the OCM since 2021 and overseen the state’s first troubled steps into adult-use cannabis legalization, was being urged to step down.

His departure was initially announced in early May following the publication of an ‘top down’ internal review into the regulators handling of the programme’s rollout.

The report highlighted key issues within the organisation, stating its culture had led to ‘confusion, difficulty and delay’ in rolling out its landmark cannabis framework, which has been plagued with lawsuits, the proliferation of illicit businesses, and the frustration of those trying to operate legally.

It also highlighted the inability of the understaffed licensing team to keep up with the more than 5600 applications that have been submitted, some 90% of which reportedly require corrections, laying bare the complexity and confusion surrounding the process.

Alexander had initially been slated to depart at the end of September, allowing time for a replacement to be found and a handover period to take place.

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