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Top New York Marijuana Regulator Resigns Following Governor’s Criticism



“I no longer have confidence in my ability to do my job and lead this team effectively under current circumstances.”

By Rosalind Adams, THE CITY

This story was originally published by THE CITY. Sign up to get the latest New York City news delivered to you each morning.

The head of the state cannabis agency resigned on Friday following weeks of public turmoil between the agency and Governor Kathy Hochul’s (D) office.

“I have been reluctant to write this email due to the deep connection and commitment I have to this work and to this Team. And while I planned to serve out the remainder of my term, I no longer have confidence in my ability to do my job and lead this team effectively under current circumstances,” Chris Alexander wrote in an email obtained by THE CITY.

Hochul appointed Alexander to the position in September 2021 as the inaugural head of the Office of Cannabis Management.

“I am grateful for Chris Alexander’s work, first in developing and securing the passage of the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act and then in launching the Office of Cannabis Management,” Hochul said in a statement to THE CITY.

“As OCM transitions into its next phase, we look forward to continuing the world of building the strongest, most equitable industry in the nation,” the statement continued.

The Office of Cannabis Management did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In January, Hochul called the rollout of the legal market a “disaster” and ordered a 30-day review of the agency by the Office of General Services. Earlier this month, she released a report following the review that criticized the inexperienced leadership of the Office of Cannabis Management and pointed to inefficiencies in the licensing process, as well sparse service for applicants awaiting determinations on their licenses.

In a press conference, Hochul said it was time for the agency to take a “new direction,” noting that Alexander would step down at the end of his term in September.

As Hochul announced the news, Alexander was still presiding over a Cannabis Control Board meeting in Albany. During the public comments part of the meeting, some came to his defense as the news broke.

“Chris, I don’t want you to step down, nobody wants you to step down,” Matthew Robinson, a retail licensee, told the meeting attendees. “We support you 100 percent,” he said to applause.

Two weeks later, Alexander resigned, saying “it has been the honor of a lifetime to lead this group of the most dedicated public servants that I have ever encountered,” in his email.

The Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition, a national advocacy organization, rejected the Office of General Services’ report findings and criticized Hochul for not reinstating Alexander as the executive director of the agency. In a statement, the coalition called the report “biased and inflammatory” and said the decision to not reinstate Alexander “poses a grave threat to the progress and integrity of equitable cannabis regulation in New York State.”

The Office of Cannabis Management wrote its own response to the Office of General Services’ report, criticizing the agency for not providing a copy of the report and pointed to a number of “factual misstatements and significant omissions,” according to a confidential draft of the report obtained by THE CITY. The agency shared the response with legislators.

The opposing reports put the tensions between the Governor’s office and the Office of Cannabis Management in public view and were further underscored by Alexander’s decision to resign more immediately than intended.

“It would be disingenuous for me to not acknowledge how difficult the last several months have been,” Alexander wrote in his resignation email.

“There is so much left to do. But I have the utmost confidence in this Team and in you all to stay focused on the mission and to keep driving things forward.”

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