A New York Cannabis Agency Has Publicly – and Wrongly – Accused a Local Business of Illegal Marijuana Sales

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The Cannabis Management Office falsely accused a decades-old event and catering company of “engaging in unlicensed cannabis sales,” and the agency refuses to acknowledge or recant its mistake.

“I’m just a small business,” said Nicole Reynolds, who runs the Ithaca-based company. Lake Watch Inn and has spent the last six days calling and emailing the CMO to prove that LakeWatch does not sell cannabis and is not associated with anyone selling cannabis.

“They don’t want to hear anything,” she said. “I have not yet been put in touch with a supervisor or member of law enforcement.”

The LakeWatch name has been blasted After that a dozen new electrical outlets over the past week after the CMO made public 66 cease and desist letters it sent months ago – LakeWatch being on the list. The agency said it sent the letters to companies it believed were operating illegally and undermining the legal market.

“I’ve had to calm down two brides and two corporate hosts since Friday,” Reynolds told NY Cannabis Insider. “I’m accused of doing something illegal, and I’m getting no response from the organization that labeled me that.”

Reynolds has also proactively reached out to the New York State Liquor Authority to make sure she doesn’t risk losing her liquor license, which she says is coveted.

To be clear, LakeWatch doesn’t sell marijuana: Reynolds briefly considered hosting a cannabis-centric farmer’s market in February, but canceled the event once she discovered the host’s intention to sell .

Social media publications, Press articles and a letter from the Tompkins County Sheriff sent to the CMO on Friday confirms Reynolds’ claim, but the agency doesn’t appear to be listening.

In fact, Reynolds said she knew nothing about the cease and desist letters until she was contacted by NY Cannabis Insider last week. It turns out the CMO sent the letter to the wrong address — and never attempted to contact Reynolds separately.

“I am tired of the incompetence of this government organization which did not check the facts,” she said.

The CMO based its “investigation” into LakeWatch entirely on inaccurate social media posts and an outdated news article.

“It’s awful,” said Frederika Easley, director of strategic initiatives at The popular ecosystema BIPOC cannabis company that champions social and economic equity and sustainable cannabis policies.

“We understand that CMO and CCB are made up of people and people make mistakes,” said Easley, who also co-chairs New York City and Hudson Valley. Cannabis Industry Association social equity committee.

“However, when these mistakes are pointed out, there must be humility and there must be an intention to right the wrongs – and that is one of the wrongs that needs to be righted.”

Frederika Easley is director of strategic initiatives at The People’s Ecosystem and co-chair of the New York City and Hudson Valley Cannabis Industry Association’s Social Equity Committee. She also sits on the DEI committee of the Council for Federal Cannabis Regulation.

NY Cannabis Insider sent OCM a list of questions regarding its investigation of LakeWatch Monday: What substantive work was done to verify that the catering company was guilty of illegal sale of cannabis? How did the agency conduct all of its investigations? Does the CMO now believe it was wrong in naming LakeWatch and is it considering rectifying the situation in any way?

The OCM did not answer any of the questions.

Instead, a spokesperson sent a brief statement it says, “We deeply appreciate all recipients of these letters who have ceased participating in any unlicensed cannabis sales. It is OCM’s intention to discourage any sale of unlicensed cannabis and we are grateful to those who cooperated.

What really happened

Reynolds said she was approached in December to organize an “informative rally” for people to learn about the safe use of medicinal and recreational cannabis. She said she asked if there would be any cannabis samples or sales at the event, and was assured nothing would happen.

“What I missed to my knowledge is that you can apparently buy a sticker, which is then either tradeable or gifted with a product — and that was the intent of this group,” Reynolds said.

“As soon as this was brought to my attention by the Tompkins County Sheriff and the District Attorney, we immediately cut ties with them,” she said.

A Lake Watch Facebook post in February confirms this, where Reynolds wrote, “Contrary to what is always promoted, we will not be teaming up with the Canna Market for the Cannabis Expo scheduled for 02/26/22. A number of licensing issues have been brought to our attention, making it an event we CANNOT participate in.”

The market finally happened to cherry arts space in Ithaca – a recipient state subsidies.

That was the end of the ordeal – until last week, when Reynolds learned from NY Cannabis Insider that she was included in the campaign to cease and desist from CMO.

cease and desist

NY Cannabis Insider didn’t cover the CMO cease-and-desist letters as normal reporting because…something wasn’t quite right.

Since then, she has made several phone calls to OCM and spoken to several customer service representatives. Tompkins County Sheriff Derek Osborne also sent a letter to the CMO on behalf of Reynolds, stating, “The LakeWatch Inn is a consistent and respected business in our community and I have no fear of impropriety. “

To date, Reynolds has received no reminder from a CMO supervisor or acknowledgment of the agency’s error.

“When something like this goes to press, and I’m included in companies doing something illegal, I’m going to be the subject of gossip, customers are going to call me and suggest they shouldn’t do business with me,” Reynolds said.

“And then the potential fallout with tax and finance and the State Liquor Authority: If they also believe my company is involved in illegal behavior, then it’s just going to trickle down to me,” she said.

The biggest problem

In a press release last ThursdayCMO management made it clear that these letters were directed at companies that “misrepresent their operations as legal cannabis dispensaries” and cited health, safety and loss of tax revenue as reasons for not doing so. take to establishments.

The strategy, however, worries some experts it may not be the right tactic.

David Holland is a partner at the law firm of Massachusetts and New York Prince Lobel & Tye and Executive and Legal Director of Empire State NORML. He told NY Cannabis Insider that the rationale for enforcing the CMO does not hold water.

“These alleged illegal sales actually pose no greater threat to public health than the donation of the same cannabis between individuals, which is specifically permitted by the MRTA and criminal law,” Holland said.

“Furthermore, it is unclear how such alleged illegal sales of unregulated cannabis could undermine a legal market that has yet to be launched. To the extent that there are disguised illegal sales, many of these Gray market operators pay local and state sales tax on goods and items sold.

“So the perceived harms seem obtuse in the bigger picture.”

Easley, who also sits on the Federal Cannabis Regulatory Council The DEI committee agrees and questions the enforcement approach.

“If the priority is to protect New Yorkers from known risks and strengthen the nascent legal market, the question is whether the stick approach that is being employed through cease-and-desist broadcasts is appropriate?” she told NY Cannabis Insider. “Are fear and punitive threats the way to go? »

She continued:

“The goal must be to successfully transition traditional and gray market operators to regulated industry by minimizing processes and financial barriers to entry and perhaps providing ongoing support services for social equity and/or small business owners,” she said.

“The growth and sustainability of the regulated market depends on it.”