Dasheeda Dawson was appointed by Mayor Eric Adams as New York City's first cannabis czar in October 2022 to help budding entrepreneurs navigate state regulations and educate the public about the industry. The Princeton University alum has spent her career in business development and previously oversaw retail licensing, compliance, and education in Portland, Oregon, as the city's cannabis program manager. She works within New York's Department of Small Business Services.

How well is New York's adult-use cannabis program working?
"I come into the industry with a lot of experience. I'm nearly 10 years in the legal space. I often like to start more globally. A program feels more minor when we're developing a new industry from the ground up. When I look at New York's cannabis industry overall, including the illegal component, which is still a big factor, it's clear since we legalized there's been a more outward cultural shift in how we see people consume. New York was home to the cannabis consumer. We're reported to have the most cannabis consumers in the country. We have, in my opinion, one of the most sensible public use laws in the country," Dasheeda says.

"A lot of industry, despite its growth, is still hidden. Our goal is to demonstrate excellence, and the state's initial rollout of the program, despite challenges, has been a good place to tack on and also advocate for constituents in New York City."

What's working well, and what are you encouraged by?
"I'm encouraged by a government trying to take accountability. Coming from a more mature market in Portland, Oregon, the city is moving faster than Oregon state. I'm very much supportive of the training program that they've created, and incubated, specifically for people transitioning from legacy or the preexisting unregulated market – the markets we don't see. We're not talking about the stores," Dasheeda says.

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