People to know in NY cannabis: Joe Rossi – syracuse.com

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Joe Rossi is the Cannabis Practice Group Leader at Park Strategies, a statewide lobbying firm. He has pushed for and helped craft some of the biggest cannabis laws and reforms in NY over the past several years. Rossi responded to eight simple questions for NY Cannabis Insider’s “People to know” series.

What is your position and what do you/your company do in the cannabis space?

I am the Cannabis Practice Group Leader at Park Strategies which is a premier statewide lobbying firm with offices in Albany, Manhattan, Long Island and Syracuse. I help guide the advocacy of the NY Cannabis Growers & Processors Association. We also advise, consult and prepare prospective cannabis licensees as they navigate the developing rules and regulations.

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How long have you worked in the cannabis space?

I have the fortune of being the lobbyist for the NY Cannabis Growers & Processors Association since it was founded in January 2019. Together, we successfully advocated for the NY Hemp Extract Law in 2019, the MRTA in 2021 and the Adult Use Conditional Cultivator & Processor Law in 2022, as well as the 280e tax reform measure in the 2022 NYS budget.

What did you do before you were involved in the cannabis industry?

I have been a registered NYS lobbyist for 14 years representing clients including Sony, Hitachi and Kinney Drugs. Prior to that, I was the Political Director for SEIU 200United and then for the Office of the NYS Attorney General as Assistant Director of Intergovernmental Affairs.

What led you to the cannabis industry?

The truest answer to this question is that the founder of Park Strategies and my friend, former United States Senator Alfonse D’Amato, told me to find out everything I could about CBD after the US Farm Bill was passed in 2018. (Alfonse knew I had an affinity for cannabis.) The 2018 US Farm Bill removed “hemp” from the definition of “marijuana” in the federal Controlled Substance Act. The 1970 Controlled Substance Act banned the production of hemp in America until the 2018 US Farm Bill became law. Mr. D’Amato’s directive led me to seek out the foremost CBD expert in New York State – Allan Gandelman. That serendipitous meeting with Allan led to my involvement with the creation of the NY Cannabis Growers & Processors Association. So it was Alfonse and Allan who led me to the industry of cannabis.

Do you have any advice for someone looking to get into the NY weed industry?

My best advice for someone looking to get into the NY cannabis industry is to fully prepare to constantly defend the cannabis plant in your personal and professional life. We have been so ingrained with bad information about the cannabis plant so you will be regularly ridiculed, mocked and scoffed at by some for being involved with cannabis at all. Stupidly, the plant is still considered a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance in federal law, so you will have to constantly educate people on the truths of the plant. If you have no passion for defending the plant, this industry isn’t for you.

What do you think the NY cannabis ecosystem will look like in five years?

In 2027, we will have a fully mature cannabis industry in New York State with as many dispensaries as liquor stores, and it will be a battle between craft cannabis and corporate cannabis. And if the MRTA’s social equity goals are realized, it will be the most diverse industry of any legal state.

Do you use cannabis? If so, what’s your favorite method (flower, dabs, edibles, tinctures, etc.), and why?

I have used cannabis most of my adult life, especially since quitting alcohol in 2005. I am an unabashed flower guy and also enjoy the occasional edible.

Who should contact you, and what’s the best method (i.e. email, phone number, LinkedIn handle, etc.)

If you are seeking support with navigating the cannabis industry in New York State, deciphering the regulations, and preparing for the upcoming application process, feel free to contact me at jrossi@parkstrategies.com. I’m also on social media sites like Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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