Mayor, Small Business Services Appoint Dasheeda Dawson as Cannabis NYC Director

Mayor Eric Adams meets with Dasheeda Dawson, Founding Director of Cannabis NYC. Image Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

As the initiative’s founding director, Dawson will serve as the primary liaison between SBS, other city agencies, and key stakeholders. On October 12, 2022, Mayor Eric Adams and Small Business Commissioner Kevin Kim announced the appointment of Dasheeda Dawson as founding director of the City’s new Cannabis NYC initiative. For CityLand’s previous coverage of the Cannabis NYC initiative, click here.

As director, Dawson will be the primary liaison between SBS and other city agencies, the New York State Office of Cannabis Management (NYSOCM), and community stakeholders like elected officials, community boards, and industry associations. Dawson will also help establish, and eventually collaborate with, the NYC Cannabis Advisory Council, an advisory board of industry and community stakeholders ensuring an equitable, innovative cannabis industry.

Dawson is a global cannabis advocate, award-winning Fortune 100 business strategist, and a bestselling author on the cannabis industry. She earned a degree in molecular biology from Princeton and an MBA from Rutgers Business School, serves as Board chair of the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition, and has worked in the cannabis industry for nearly a decade.

Previously, Dawson advocated for the landmark NYS Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which was successfully passed in 2021. At the same time, Dawson was also tapped to lead cannabis regulation efforts in Portland, Oregon. As cannabis program manager for the City of Portland, Dawson oversaw all regulatory licensing, compliance, education, and equity initiatives and managed the Social Equity & Educational Development (SEED) Initiatives. Her office’s SEED Initiatives included the SEED Grant Fund, the country’s first community reinvestment fund tied to local cannabis tax revenue.

Under Dawson’s leadership, Portland also approved a multimillion-dollar Cannabis Emergency Relief Fund, becoming the country’s first government jurisdiction to allocate cannabis tax revenue to provide aid and emergency relief to the industry.

Dawson has received support from stakeholders like the Drug Policy Alliance, NYSOCM, U.S. Representatives Jerry Nadler and Adriano Espaillat, and NYS Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

Dawson shared that her appointment was a full-circle moment: “Growing up in East New York, I survived the height of cannabis prohibition and witnessed targeted enforcement derail the lives of my friends and family. I was stopped, searched, and treated like a criminal before I ever touched the plant, which shaped my initial perceptions. Now, as a cannabis patient, educator, and regulator, I get to support other consumers, small businesses, and local stakeholders in the growing industry so that cannabis — once used to suppress communities like mine — can be tapped as a tool for transformation.”

SBS Commissioner Kevin Kim added, “Her professional experience as an educator, regulator, entrepreneur, and advocate makes her ready for this moment. Her personal experience — as someone who has been impacted directly by the ‘War on Drugs’ — also uniquely prepare her to lead this groundbreaking initiative. I am confident that with Dasheeda at the helm of Cannabis NYC, we will help countless New Yorkers better understand and fully take advantage of this newfound opportunity.”

Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer: “New York City is committed to building the country’s most equitable cannabis industry. By naming an experienced and accomplished industry leader like Dasheeda Dawson as founding director of Cannabis NYC, we are ensuring our economic and social equity goals will be fulfilled as this industry grows across the city.”

Mayor Adams: “Our administration is committed to planting the seeds for equity in a high-growth, budding industry like cannabis sales. The nation’s most equitable cannabis industry will be in New York City, and to drive that goal home, we have chosen a proven leader with unmatched experience and credibility in this field. Dasheeda Dawson will fill the needs of entrepreneurs in this space, and as a person with lived experience and who was harmed by the ‘War on Drugs,’ this is personal for her.”

By: Cassidy Strong (Cassidy is a CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2024.)

Mayor’s Office: Mayor Adams, Department of Small Business Services Appoint Dasheeda Dawson as Cannabis NYC Founding Director, October 12, 2022.


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