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State and local leaders and budding entrepreneurs gather in Rochester to talk about cannabis industry

Rochester cannabis conference-5-12-22
Randy Gorbman
Local entrepreneurs, along with business and government officials gathered at The Strong museum in Rochester on Thursday for a conference on the state's cannabis industry.

Rochester was the site of a half-day conference on Thursday to talk about the state’s efforts to boost the new cannabis industry in New York for recreational marijuana.

Chris Alexander is Executive Director for the NYS Office of Cannabis Management.

He said the goal is to have the first stores selling cannabis before the end of this year.

Alexander said that New York is keeping a close eye on how the sales of recreational marijuana is being handled in other states.

“We're just trying different things, you know, trying to learn from what they've done, what has worked and what hasn't, and put forward the best solutions,” said Alexander. “We do talk regularly with our regulators from other states. We have regular workgroups, we have standing meetings, we have an organization. And so it's really good to be able to be in contact with states across the country or engaged in the same exercise.”

Among the speakers at Thursday’s conference, State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who talked about the state’s efforts to make sure people from minority communities are away of the business opportunities that may be available.

“I'm going to assume that this communication strategy that the (office of cannabis management) has laid out, will help build that level of trust, because there are a lot of reasons why people don't trust government,” said Peoples-Stokes. “And they don't necessarily want to be in the media around this issue, either. So I think it's a great idea to get to go with (a new state marketing program) “Get Ready, Get Set,” because that's going to go in deep…and find the people and talk to them at a level that they understand.”

The conference Thursday was hosted at the Strong Museum by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. Its President and CEO, Bob Duffy, said the Chamber is trying to provide education and guidance for those who are thinking of getting involved in the recreational cannabis industry.

“There are literally billions of dollars of economic opportunities for growers, agriculture, retail,” said Duffy. “As the majority leader mentioned very clearly this morning, the issue on social justice and equity for those most impacted and whether people agree or not it’s legalized, it’s coming. Our job is to make sure we educate people on all aspects of this.”

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.