A story published Monday in Politico indicated that New York's executive branch might be slow-walking some key nominations to two boards created by passage of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) this past session.
The MRTA legalizes the production, distribution and use of marijuana in New York.
But bill sponsor, Democratic Senate Finance Chair Liz Krueger told Capital Tonight that Budget Director Rob Mujica called her on Tuesday with some positive news.
“I got a call from the executive chamber yesterday, saying they very much want to continue down the path…and they understand how important this legislation is to so many people, and how [Senate Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes] and I took the lead in fighting for this for so many years,” Krueger said. “And they want to work with us to come up with people who we are happy with, and move as quickly as possible.”
The Politico story reported that legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo were at odds over who should lead the new Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board.
When asked why Gov. Cuomo’s choice to head up the Office of Cannabis Management wasn’t supported by lawmakers, Krueger explained they didn’t think Norman Birenbaum, the current director of the state’s cannabis programs, had the right sensibility for a law that is largely aimed a righting historic social injustices.
“Our concern was that Mr. Birenbaum came out of Rhode Island, which had a tiny program that had no focus on the issues the way we saw them rolling out in New York. And the advocacy community, having worked with him, also felt that he did not understand where we needed this program to go in New York,” Krueger explained. “It’s so crucial for us to get it right from the beginning.”
In a statement emailed to Capital Tonight, the Cuomo administration echoed Krueger’s desire to appoint individuals “with diverse experiences and backgrounds to ensure industry access for small businesses and communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.”
Here is the full statement from Colin Brennan, the senior deputy communications director:
“As we continue our work to rebuild and revitalize New York in a post-pandemic world, we remain actively engaged with the legislature on a litany of bills passed this session, including the creation of the Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board. The administration is working tirelessly to ensure both entities can begin implementing a safe, equitable and transparent adult-use cannabis industry as soon as possible. Moreover, we are committed to appointing individuals with diverse experiences and backgrounds to ensure industry access for small businesses and communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. We look forward to completing this work as soon as possible and prove that New York will, without a doubt, have the most safe, equitable and transparent adult-use industry in the nation.”
"With regards to Norman Birenbaum, he is an absolute professional who was critical to the successful passage of the landmark legislation legalizing recreational cannabis in New York and is committed to successful implementation of a nation-leading program."