Chris Alexander is the inaugural Executive Director of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management. Appointed by Governor Kathy Hochul in September 2021, he is charged with the implementation and oversight of New York's cannabinoid hemp, adult-use, and medical cannabis programs. A long-time advocate for social justice, racial equity, and civic engagement; Mr. Alexander is the architect of the Start SMART NY campaign to end marijuana prohibition and the lead drafter of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, New York's marijuana legalization bill. He is a native of Hollis, Queens and the son of immigrant parents who came to the United States from the Caribbean Island of Grenada.
He has previously worked as the Government Relations & Policy Manager for a multi-state cannabis company, as an Associate Counsel for the New York State Senate and Policy Coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance. He has also worked as a staffer in the House of Representatives during the 113th Congress and has led political campaigns on the state and local level.
Axel Bernabe serves as Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Director. Axel is responsible for standing-up and overseeing all aspects of the Office of Cannabis Management. Prior to starting the OCM, Axel spent 6 years as chief health counsel to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, overseeing all legal and policy deliberations in the health portfolio. As part of his cannabis responsibilities, he led the expansion of the medical program, directed the launch of the State's cannabinoid hemp program, and drafted and negotiated the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA). Prior to joining the Cuomo administration, Axel was a partner at an international law firm where he was a nationally recognized antitrust expert, with a focus on the healthcare industry.
Patrick McKeage serves as First Deputy Director for the Office of Cannabis Management. Patrick has worked on the cannabis file in New York State for the past five years helping to implement the cannabinoid hemp program, expand the medical cannabis program and create the adult-use cannabis program. Patrick has extensive knowledge of cannabis policy and regulations and has been managing the operational logistics associated with implementing the Marihuana Regulation & Taxation Act and standing up the new Office of Cannabis Management. Patrick brings prior experience working in New York State Government from previous roles at the Department of Health, Office of General Services and the Department of Taxation and Finance. Patrick also has experience working in the New York State Assembly and an Albany based government relations firm.
Stanley De La Cruz serves as the Director of Executive Operations. He is responsible for designing, building, and implementing the Office's first long-term production workflow management system and operational protocol. The Director of Executive Operations' objective is to design the systems and processes that will increase productivity, responsiveness, and decision making by the Executive Team as they integrate existing operational activities across the three cannabis programs. He is the Agency Language Access Coordinator and Sustainability Coordinator. Stanley previously worked as the Deputy Director of Legislative Operations for the New York State Senate Majority Counsel and Program office.
Mary Adelaja is the Manager of Executive Operations and Chief Diversity Officer for the Office of Cannabis Management. In this role, she provides support and manages special projects exclusively for the Executive Team. She is responsible for the development and implementation of the Strategic Plan for Diversity and Inclusion, as well as it’s integration into OCM’s Strategic Plan and Social Equity Plan, as described in Section 87 of the Cannabis Law. She serves as the agency representative on New York State’s Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Council. Her 13 years of experiences gained from her previous employment with the Department of Homeland Security, will ensure the agency is meeting its internal diversity goals so that the workforce reflects all the communities of the state.
Chief Equity Officer
Damian Fagon was appointed as the Chief Equity Officer of the NYS Office of Cannabis Management in June 2022. In this role, Mr. Fagon will oversee the social and economic equity initiatives laid out in the MRTA. As a 3rd-generation farmer with a background in international development, agriculture and small business, he has led development initiatives with castor farmers in Jamaica, rice growers in Sierra Leone, and coffee exporters in Guatemala. Mr. Fagon has also launched and advised commercial cannabis operations in South Carolina, New York, and the Caribbean.
Herb Barbot is the Director of Operations which is comprised of Licensing and Enforcement. Prior to joining OCM, Herb was Deputy Commissioner for Operations and Customer Service at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, where he served for over six years. In this role, Herb directly oversaw thirty district offices across the State of New York with over 1,000 employees under his management. At the Department, Herb played a key role fostering collaboration between local, state, and county stakeholders, stewarding the agency’s resources in response to COVID-19, and managing the agency’s ongoing Customer Service Initiative, applying private sector best practices to agency processes. Herb has also served in New York City government as Deputy Comptroller for Claims and Adjudication and as Chief of Staff and Special Counsel at the New York City Department of Youth and Community Services, where he managed all aspects of the nation’s largest afterschool and summer youth employment programs, as well as the Vulnerable and Runaway Homeless Youth Department. Herb also has significant background in healthcare law, both in the public and private sector, and is a veteran of the Untied State Air Force. Herb earned his law degree from the New York University School of Law.
John Kagia serves as the Director of Policy for the Office of Cannabis Management. He leads the team responsible for policy development and implementation for the medical, adult use, and cannabinoid hemp programs in New York. John also manages development of research and data systems to measure and track industry performance, and he oversees deployment of the Office’s educational public health campaigns. Since joining the cannabis industry in 2014, John has been a pioneering industry analyst delivering groundbreaking research into emerging global markets, investment and capital flows, supply chain trends, product innovation, and evolving consumer behavior. He works with policy makers, investors, and business owners to capitalize on emerging opportunities, hedge against risk, and predict market defining trends. Prior to joining the cannabis industry, John spent a decade delivering market research and strategic intelligence to high-performing organizations across the federal government, technology, and non-profit sectors.
Freeman Klopott has spent nearly two decades as a journalist and communications professional developing the stories that inform the public, respond to crisis, and build brands. Prior to joining the OCM, he was Communications Director for the New York State Division of the Budget where he played a key role in New York State’s response to COVID-19, including the successful fight for federal funding. Prior to that, Mr. Klopott led communications at New York State Homes and Community Renewal, New York State’s housing agency, and was Communications and Marketing Director for the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY). As a journalist, he started out covering local news for The Keene Sentinel and later The Washington Examiner before covering New York State politics and finances for Bloomberg News in Albany. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts & Sciences from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University.
Nicole Quackenbush, Pharm.D. is the Director of Health and Safety for the Office of Cannabis Management. She provides oversight for product quality, compliance, customer service, and research to protect the health and safety of cannabis consumers and medical cannabis patients in New York state. Nicole’s cannabis experience began in August 2014 when she was charged with implementing New York State’s Medical Cannabis Program after the Compassionate Care Act was signed into law. She was also responsible for the oversight of the program, as well as many expansion initiatives. In addition to her cannabis experience, Nicole supported the implementation of New York’s ISTOP legislation to help combat the opioid epidemic. She also has experience in the private sector with the implementation of highly integrated systems in the health care industry, retail pharmacy operations, as well as management of state contracts in the PBM industry for senior prescription assistance programs, AIDS drug assistance programs, and Medicaid preferred drug programs. Nicole has been licensed as a pharmacist since August 1998, holding registrations in New York and Florida.
Amanda Wilson serves as the Director of Administration. She is responsible for planning, developing, and supervising the operations of the Administration team, and managing the team responsible for overseeing the IT, Budget, and Human Resources portfolios of the agency. As the Director of Administration she also represents the agency on task forces making decisions and commitments on behalf of OCM. She brings experience as the Operations Manager for the Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoid Hemp programs. Amanda was with the medical program since its inception in 2014 and was instrumental in meeting the implementation dates outlined within the Compassionate Care Act. She has overseen compliance of the Registered Organizations which manufacture and dispense products to certified patients, the customer service team which assists practitioners, patients and caregivers with registering with the program, and performed administrative functions, including but not limited to management of each of the Program’s budget, staffing, contracts and application systems. Mrs. Wilson stood up the Cannabinoid Hemp Program in 2020, including the release of an electronic application system through New York Business Express. She previously worked on the implementation of the New York State of Health Marketplace, to expand the access of health insurance for all New Yorkers. Mrs. Wilson has worked collaboratively with other New York State agencies, vendors, and external stakeholders to support each of these programs.