BUFFALO, N.Y. -- New York state's rollout of its cannabis industry has gone more slowly than planned.
State Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, who helped write the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act, admitted there have been some mistakes but said the industry has also stalled because of an active campaign by large corporations to undermine it.
"This is really a story about big business trying to shut out small evolving businesses," Krueger said.
She and Assembly sponsor Crystal Peoples-Spokes, D-Buffalo, co-authored an editorial condemning the alleged effort. Krueger said corporations are not only funding trade groups like the Coalition for Access to Regulated and Safe Cannabis, which brought its own lawsuit against the state, but also believes those same businesses are financially supporting other litigation.
"These attacks that are being privately funded by secret organizations, both the lawsuits and frankly a PR campaign throughout the state, it's really disturbing," Krueger said.
Her concerns stem from a case brought by several disabled veterans seeking access to the market that has stalled the rollout. Attorneys for the coalition pointed out their lawsuit came first, but the court has since intertwined the cases, which make essentially the same argument.
The complaint is that the Office of Cannabis Management overstepped in creating the Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary program when it is not explicity part of the law.
"They are not out of bounds at all. They are following the law. They are using the discretion we intentionally gave a state agency as we do on almost every law with every state agency," Krueger said.
CARSC Coalition spokesman, the Rev. Kirsten John Foy, classified the rollout as a disaster and said Krueger's words prevent collaborative conversation.
"The Senator's reckless comments only serve to reinforce the barriers that OCM has erected to prevent well-deserving, legally entitled priority classes and communities of color from entering the adult-use cannabis market. Her comments especially demean and disregard those service-disabled veterans who were compelled to file suit to vindicate their rights, reducing them to the status of puppets," he said.
The state senator said New York needs to protect its equity-based model where other states have failed.
"We wrote a law that means we shouldn't fail so they're doing everything they can to try to make sure we do because if we get it right here, other states are going to say we can do it that way also."
The window for applications for full cannabis licenses, including cultivators and retailers, opens next week.