New York Cannabis: Early Unforced Errors in Enforcement

A lot has been made recently on New York’s new legislation that empowers the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) to take enforcement actions against illicit retail dispensaries (check out our posts here and here). This article (paywall) by the always excellent Brad Racino of NY Cannabis Insider provides a play-by-play of the OCM’s first ever enforcement hearing.

Here is the background: Roll Up Nation was one of the 31 allegedly illicit dispensaries that was issued a notice of violation the week of June 5, when the OCM had its first series of raids. Mr. Racino does a great job of setting the scene, describing the participants in the hearing and their respective rolls. We strongly urge anyone interested to read the article, if you can.

But what really caught our eye is the description of “sloppy paperwork” errors committed by OCM. The article references the OCM’s Notice of Violation naming the wrong address for the business and in another instance the OCM’s inspection report naming the wrong business.

On one hand, these sorts of minor discrepancies are not a big deal. On the other hand, administrative dismissals of violations on procedural technicalities is not uncommon, and the OCM (nay, New York’s entire adult-use cannabis industry) has a lot riding on effective enforcement.

We have been vocal on the importance of shutting down illicit cannabis operators in New York. It is going to be impossible for New York’s legal adult-use operators to survive if they are forced to compete with illicit operators that do not have to undertake the effort and expense to comply with the OCM’s rules and regulations. Immediate and effective enforcement against illicit cannabis operators is, in our opinion, one of the critical issues for New York cannabis in the coming months.

The OCM finally has the power to do something about illicit operators. In our opinion, it must yield that power effectively and with credibility to successfully police New York’s cannabis industry. The sort of sloppy paperwork detailed in Mr. Racino’s article leads to an immediate loss of confidence in the OCM’s operations, the sort of crisis of confidence that has recently and frequently been discussed in the roll out of the Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary licenses and lead up to the release of the full adult-use cannabis license applications.

With all of that said, it is the first enforcement hearing (after all), so here is hoping that the OCM’s policies and procedures tighten up as it begins to use its new enforcement powers. Stay tuned!