The New York Cannabis Advisory Board Has Been Formed: WTF Is Ebro Doing On It?

Did they just choose anyone or…..?

Last week (6/23) Gov. Kathy Hochul named New York State cannabis advisory board members and the list has us begging the question, “What?”

Despite delays in the board’s appointment, the 13-member panel that will advise state marijuana regulators and oversees a fund to help communities impacted by the War on Drugs, was announced. The governor appointed seven members while both NYS Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and NYS Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins appointed three each. Non-voting reps from Environmental Conservation, Agriculture & Markets, Children & Family Services, Labor, Health, Housing & Community Renewal, Addiction Services & Supports, and Education were also appointed.

Under the Cannabis Law, the money made through taxes on cannabis products and from licensing fees is to be directed back to communities across New York:

  • 40% of those funds will go to the New York State Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which will be disbursed by the Cannabis Advisory Board.
  • 40% will go directly to school districts in municipalities that did not opt-out of cannabis sales
  • 20% will be targeted for drug treatment programs.

The advisory board members, including non-voting, are:

  • Alejandro Alvarez, Chief Executive Officer/Co-Founder of Soulful Synergy
  • Joe Belluck, Partner at Belluck & Fox, LLC
  • Dr. Junella Chin, MD, Integrative Medical Cannabis Physician
  • Allan Clear, MD, Director at Office of Drug User Health at New York State Department of Health
  • Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, MD, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Addiction Services & Supports
  • Ibrahim Jamil Darden, Ebro In the Morning
  • Kathleen DeCataldo, Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Student Support Services at the New York State Department of Education
  • TheArthur A. Duncan II, Esq., Counselor and Attorney at Law at the Law Office of TheArthur A. Duncan
  • Alan Gandelman, President of New York Cannabis Growers & Processors Association
  • Dareth Glance, Deputy Commissioner at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
  • Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Special Advisor for Policy and Community Affairs at the New York State Division of Homes & Community Renewal
  • Garry Johnson, Chair of the NAACP New York State Economic Development
  • Nikki Kateman, Political & Communications Director at Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW
  • Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Executive Deputy Commissioner at the New York State Office of Children & Family Services
  • Russell Oliver, Director of the Division of Employment & Workforce Solutions at the New York State Department of Labor
  • Sarah Ravenhall, Executive Director of the New York State Association of County Health Officials
  • Chandra Redfern, Chief Executive Officer at the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers Inc.
  • Armando Rosado, Private Investigator at AR Investigations, Inc.
  • Peter Shafer, Owner at Nanticoke Gardens
  • Scott Wyner, Esq., General Counsel at the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets

While the fund is a huge leap in advancing community development, how in touch are these individuals with the community to make big money decisions for them. In the announcement, State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said “I have proudly and confidently appointed Ebro Darden, Alex Alvarez, and Nikki Kateman to the Cannabis Advisory Board. I thank them for stepping up to be part of this historic opportunity and committing to this position’s responsibilities. Their diverse backgrounds and experience will help ensure that New York State has a fair and equitable adult-use marijuana market. I look forward to their work.”

Ebro, who has had a long history with getting dragged about colorism comments he’s made, has been tasked with deciding what’s fair and equitable. The same man who said singer Tinashe was too light to have a “ghetto name,” how many businesses would be turned down for similar reasons? Tinashe’s last name by the way is, Kachingwe, a powerful African one, to which Ebro said “Yea, but sometimes these ghetto names are actually African.” Or that time Saweetie expressed an appearance on Hot 97’s Morning Show 2018 gave her PTSD due to how the radio host responded to her freestyle. Granted, a track may not be for everyone, but after hearing about the singer’s struggles, Ebro tweeted:

He has since apologized for the Tinashe remarks but we’re talking about a very serious fund here with many people who have unique names applying.

Now, Ebro may be great for the job. He has experience with weed, even was pulled over and made a sale at the same time. But is that enough compared to other lesser-known individuals in the space dedicated to speaking to non-profits and community members about specifically cannabis? I can’t help but wonder: Can we trust that he’d have an unbiased approach to how he voices the way he sees how New York’s cannabis marketplace would be regulated? Could the same man who could care less about how his status and platform influences others really care about the success of a Black woman in the space?

Seriously, this is huge. The advisory board has to make recommendations to the cannabis control board, the office, and the legislature on cannabis and hemp cultivation, processing, distribution, transport, social and economic equity in the cannabis and hemp industries, criminal justice, public health and safety concerns, law enforcement related to cannabis and cannabis products, and on the testing and sale of cannabis and cannabis products. These funds are supposed to go to communities impacted by cannabis prohibition.

Ebro undoubtedly has an extensive career on radio. Since 1990 he’s been in the game, before joining Hot 97 in 2003 as the music director and ultimately becoming a station programmer in 2007. He eventually rejoined the Morning Show in 2012, to where we see him now. His impact and influence are voluminous.

It is a weighted responsibility to create an equitable cannabis industry in NYS. Each decision matters. These members should be considered true experts, as they are tasked with providing guidance and leadership to many issues related to adult-use, medical, and hemp cannabis. These people will govern community grants – they will control who gets the money.

Many questions remain about the formation of this board: What considerations were taken in cherry-picking its members? Would the public have a say in choosing the members moving forward? What’s not to stop nepotism from coming into play? Will the popular brands receive more money while the boots-on-the-ground non-profits who actually give free resources to the Black community, continue to be left out?

Like everything else with a unique cannabis model, we’ll just have to wait and see. And we’re definitely paying attention.

The next advisory board meeting is Thursday, June 30th at 11 AM. Stream here.

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