New York Governor Kathy Hochul—who replaced the disgraced former governor Andrew Cuomo—promised to pick up where Cuomo failed, and get the state’s adult-use cannabis market off the ground. New York residents grew wearisome, waiting for the industry to materialize as the former governor was consumed with scandals.
For background, former governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature approved the law last March that legalized adult-use cannabis in New York. But Cuomo became embroiled in a dispute with the state Senate, so he didn’t nominate an executive director for the new Office of Cannabis Management—nor did he name appointees to the Cannabis Control Board, even though the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act was passed several months ago.
This left the state’s cannabis industry in a state of limbo, because without the Cannabis Control Board in operation, licenses and new rules cannot be approved.
Cuomo’s scandals came to a head earlier this month. Within a week of a report detailing 11 substantiated women’s allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault against Governor Cuomo, he was gone.
On August 10, former governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation, effective August 24—automatically making Hochul governor, who was officially sworn in on the same day his resignation took effect. That made Governor Hochul New York’s first female governor in its history. One of the things she plans on doing differently is tackling cannabis reform, which has dragged on for too long in New York.
Governor Hochul’s representatives confirmed that she plans on filling critical cannabis positions as a priority. “Nominating and confirming individuals with diverse experiences and subject matter expertise, who are representative of communities from across the state, to the Cannabis Control Board is a priority for Gov. Hochul,” the new governor’s spokesman, Jordan Bennett, told The New York Post. “We look forward to working with the legislature to keep this process moving forward,” the Hochul rep said.
According to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), Hochul indicated to them also that she will move on the appointments to the Cannabis Control Board. “They have spoken about the need to make appointments to the board,” said Mike Murphy, a spokesman for Stewart-Cousins.
Heastie said that Governor Hochul was clear about making cannabis a priority during a private meeting that took place on August 9. “She did say that that was something that she wanted us all to concentrate on—and we agreed,” Heastie said.
However, Rochester First reported that Governor Hochul did not discuss cannabis in particular during her first-ever address, but acknowledged her team agreed that cannabis will be a priority.
The First Female New York Governor
Not only is Governor Hochul New York’s first governor, but her appointment means that there are now nine female governors currently in office—tying the record for the highest number of female governors to date.
It represents a significantly more inclusive time for state leadership. Hochul joins Governors Kristi Noem, Kate Brown, Laura Kelly, Kay Ivey, Kim Reynolds, Gretchen Whitmer, Michelle Lujan Grisham and Janet Mills.
Several of the aforementioned governors have been active in cannabis reform, for better or for worse. Governor Kristi Noem, for instance, repeatedly delayed or fought against cannabis reform including South Dakota’s disputed adult use and medical cannabis bill.
Governor Hochul has served as Cuomo’s lieutenant governor since 2015. But as Hochul increasing sought to stress her distance from Cuomo it became more apparent that she would ascend to the throne.
But the new governor promised to do things very differently than the man whom she replaced in her new role. “No one,” Hochul said, “will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment.”
Benjamin M. Adams is Staff Writer at High Times, and has written for Vice, Forbes, HuffPost, The Advocate, Culture, and many other publications. He holds a Bachelor of Communication from Southern New Hampshire University.