During a Thursday meeting, the Cannabis Control Board approved Damian Fagon to become the Chief Equity Officer for the Office of Cannabis Management, among other announcements.
Other than Executive Director Chris Alexander, the Chief Equity Officer is the only legislatively created position and will oversee all equity initiatives through OCM and deliver an annual report to the legislature on the efficacy of social equity programs and the revenue generated from conditional licenses.
“I know first hand how the challenges of fundraising, banking, regulatory compliance, and land access can be make or break for first time cannabis entrepreneurs that look like me,” Fagon said.
A descendent of Jamaican immigrants, the third generation farmer has lived in New York for the past eight years, where he has worked to scale cannabis and industrial hemp cultivation operations in South Carolina, New York, and the Caribbean.
The 34 year-old, who has traveled extensively to study cannabis, owns Gullybean hemp farm in the Hudson Valley and taught the first college accredited course on cannabis horticulture as a CUNY adjunct.
“Sitting here today, I can honestly say that I learned more about cannabis from the people of the South Bronx and Crown Heights than I ever did in Colorado,” he said.
The entrepreneur is also a board member of the New York Cannabis Growers & Processors Association, which represents the interests of small to midsize operators in the state.
Kaelan Castetter, who founded New York Growers and Processors Association, said he couldn’t think of a better fit for the role than Fagon.
“He understands how to incentivize and create opportunities for Black and minority communities, and knows the specifics of the New York cannabis industry really well,” Castetter said.
Following Fagon’s appointment, the Board announced that NBA All-Star Chris Webber will manage the Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund, which, as authorized by the 2022-2023 state budget, will help those who have conditional adult-use retail licenses meet the costs of establishing dispensaries, including the identification and leasing of suitable retail locations and design, construction, and fit-out of the spaces.
The fund will be supported by $50 million from licensing fees and another $150 million which Webber will work alongside former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson to fundraise from private investors.
“Our hope is that New York’s holistic approach can be replicated in other markets and help accelerate the growth of underrepresented businesses across the country,” Webber said.
State officials did not say what the terms for investment would be or how the office intends to attract investors.
The Board also released a list of 41 more Adult Use Cannabis Conditional Cultivator Licenses on Thursday, adding to the 162 already approved. To date, OCM has received 250 applications for the program.
Castetter said although it is late in the season, he sees no reason why the new cultivators wouldn’t be able to create a product this season, given that most of them already have their operations set up.
“You could still go in and plant into July,” he said.
Over 250 cultivation license applications have been submitted, state regulators say. The deadline is June 30, 2022.
The Board also approved an application form for qualifying Cannabinoid Hemp Processors to apply for an adult-use conditional processor license. Applicants must have applied for a Cannabinoid Hemp Processor License before January 1st, 2022. According to Department of Agriculture and Markets data, there are currently 220 licensed producers in the state to date.
The license will authorize license holders to process and distribute their own cannabis products for a period of two years or until they transition to a non-conditional license.
The application window will open on Tuesday, June 28th and close on Wednesday, August 31st.
Along with conditional cultivation license recipients, processor license recipients must participate in a social equity mentorship program where they provide training in cannabis cultivation and processing for social and economic equity partners.