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State cannabis agency holds press conference in LIC to launch ‘Buy Legal’ campaign

Apr. 18, 2023 By Max Parrott

Two days before the toker-cherished marijuana holiday, April 20th, New York’s Office of Cannabis Management launched a campaign to tout the benefits of buying marijuana from the state’s seven legal dispensaries.

The campaign, dubbed “Why Buy Legal New York,” centers on patronizing licensed cannabis shops as a means of supporting the state’s economic equity and social justice goals as well as consuming safe, regulated products.

The state’s campaign involves a series of promotional videos and a website that features a dispensary directory and tips on safe consumption. The agency unveiled the materials at the CUNY School of Law in Long Island City on Tuesday.

“Our harvest will help on building an inclusive economy and an equitable cannabis industry, and we are proud to be a part of this new legal industry that reinvests in our community,” says King Aswad, a cannabis farmer starring in one of the state’s promotional videos, surrounded by a field of cannabis plants in his eastern Hudson River Valley farm.

A key part of OCM’s messaging involves emphasizing civic virtues of buying locally sourced and sold marijuana.

Joe Belluck, chair of Cannabis Advisory Board, explained at the press conference that buying local supports the board’s main role of implementing the state’s community reinvestment fund, which hands out money to organizations and local governments and sets up dispensaries operated by those previously impacted by the state’s marijuana laws.

“In order to do that, we need the funds that come from buying legal,” said Belluck. “If you are buying from a non-licensed dispensary or a non-legal distributor of cannabis, you’re taking money out of the community reinvestment fund that the advisory board is going to oversee.”

The event brought out Damien Cornwell, the Binghamton-based owner of the third dispensary to open in New York state. Cornwell said that in the couple odd months he’s been open he’s seen the economic benefits of his business spread through the community, from his budtenders, who each make $50,000 a year, to the area around his dispensary, which has become a destination for border states.

“We see restaurants on the block now open on Saturdays that didn’t used to do so because we are on the block,” Cornwell said.

The other pillar of the campaign focused on New York’s regulatory process — designed to cut out contaminants from cannabis products.

“We often know that these products contain contaminants and adulterants like pesticides, like heavy metals, which consumers shouldn’t be consuming. Our legal product is safer because of the high standard for quality and testing that our local producers must meet,” said OCM policy director John Kagia.

Howard Hoffman runs a cannabis processing company out of Long Island called Omnium Canna that both packages flower from cultivators across the state as well as extracts them into THC oil that you might find in gummies. His biggest contribution to the legal market is safety.

“Let’s say you’re rolling the joints. You’re an illegal dealer. You have no sanitary environments, you don’t have a smock, you don’t have facial cover, you’re covered with dander, pathogens and microbes,” Hoffman said.

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