Some cannabis business owners threw support Friday behind ousted state Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander as he prepares to depart the agency following a damning report released Friday that shows sweeping department inefficiences. 

The state Office of General Services report, which was first reported in The New York Times after a nearly six-week review by OGS Commissioner Jeanette Moy, shows OCM failed to give a license to 90% of cannabis business applicants. The governor on Friday called the department "a disaster" and said the report shows deep-seated issues in the agency with leadership that have prevented fulfilling its licensing role.

It prompted Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday to announced an overhaul of Office of Cannabis Management leadership, and that she will not reappoint Alexander to his post late this summer. His term expires Sept. 1.

"Today is not about pointing fingers — it's about pointing OCM in a new direction and implementing solutions that work for everyone," Hochul told reporters in the state Capitol. 

OCM is plagued by issues, according to the report, and left $26 million in allocated funds untouched. Last year's budget gave the department 37 additional staffers, but the department did not answer questions Friday about how many have been hired more than a year later.

Hochul and her top aides made the afternoon announcement in the state Capitol at the same time the Cannabis Control Board met in the nearby Empire State Plaza.

Alexander participated in the meeting as he standardly does, but the OGS report and his removal from office were not discussed.

Alexander declined to comment on the announcement he'll leave office and the report, and Office of Cannabis Management staff blocked reporters from reaching him. He swiftly left the room surrounded by protective staff and counsel at the end of the meeting.

Members of the Cannabis Control Board also declined to comment.

"We just finished our meeting and we have no comment," board chair Tremaine Wright said.

A handful of people who spoke during the meeting's public comment voiced support for Alexander, arguing his job is difficult and he should not have to step down.

Matthew Robinson, a licensee who owns Legacy Dispensary in Colonie, Albany County, became emotional addressing the board. He argued it's disrespectful for Alexander to be forced from his position after the department's work to open more than 120 legal dispensaries.

"Chris, I don't want you to step down. We want you here — you got backing, we support you, 100%," Robinson said before his voice cracked with emotion. "Chris, you have my support and everybody on my team's support. Thank you."

Robinson published a social media post Friday night on Legacy Dispensary's LinkedIn page to encourage people to stand up for Alexander and push back against his removal from OCM's helm in the coming months.

"Today marks a sad day for Black and brown people," Robinson wrote. "A great man… a great Black man by the name Chris Alexander is being used as the scapegoat for that wicked governor Kathy Hochul. ...Now the governor is trying to do to this Black man what America has done to us for hundreds of years... erase his accomplishments and remove his good name from history."

OCM staff started work immediately to implement the changes to have stronger internal controls and improve communication with applicants.

Starting Monday, New York State Police will lead a task force to go after thousands of thriving illegal cannabis shops.

Hochul said the changes will improve transparency and build the market prioritizing people harmed by past drug laws.

Kassandra Frederique, executive director Drug Policy Alliance, spoke last at the meeting, expressing her frustration with the governor's intervention in OCM's work.

"People want to ask why foks of color do not stand up to be in these positions as elected officials, as progressive prosecutors, as leading the industry," Frederique said. "It's because we get set up. And then they cut our heads off in public. And that is what is happenign to the OCM."

Earlier Friday during regular business, the board approved guidelines that members will review all retail dispensary and microbusiness applications in the queue before any others. Thousands are pending.

Hochul said the changes will unclog the licensing bottleneck and streamline the application process as a whole.

"Everyone wants OCM to be successful — we want it for their staff we want it for their leadership and we want it for the New Yorkers who want to see this industry thrive," OGS Commissioner Jeanette Moy said.

Cannabis Control Board members said they have long requested the Executive Chamber give the department additional staff to expedite the review of license applications. Several members have declined for months to discuss the department's hiring progress.

“The Office of Cannabis Management was a new agency back in 2021 and never received the support from the top down to establish a coordinated effort – from human resources to IT – to get it off the ground quickly and achieve its goals," said Marino PR Vice President Freeman Klopott, who formerly served as the state Office of Cannabis Management spokesperson during the department's inception. "Hopefully, the report released today will lead to real change where the OCM gets the full resources of state government and can expand its ability to live up to the objectives of our state’s cannabis law.”

Multiple sources Friday said OCM's Chief Equity Officer Damian Fagon will be removed after an ongoing investigation concludes into claims of retaliation against a cannabis processor. The investigation is separate from the OGS' review.