Damian Fagon, senior official in charge of state cannabis operations, suspended after NY Cannabis Insider investigation

A high-level official at the Office of Cannabis Management was placed on administrative leave following a NY Cannabis Insider investigation into charges of retribution and selective enforcement on the state agency’s behalf.

Last week, an agency official placed the OCM’s chief equity officer, Damian Fagon, on leave.

“As a regulatory body, we take questions about the integrity of our systems very seriously,” OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander told NY Cannabis Insider.

“To ensure a transparent and complete assessment of the claims, the office placed Mr. Fagon on leave. We remain committed to creating a sustainable, egalitarian cannabis market while also maintaining our integrity and credibility at this critical time for our industry. The essential work our Social and Economic Equity Team has been performing since the agency’s inception will continue uninterrupted during this period.”

Fagon’s departure comes after a NY Cannabis Insider investigation into Jenny Argie, a Hudson Valley processor who was subject to the state’s first and only recall.

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The OCM issued the state’s first recall in December after one of Argie’s products contained 1 milligram less THC than stated. Argie believes the recall was retaliation for leaking audio from a chat with Fagon, according to documents filed in court last week.

After publishing the piece, Fagon shouted, cursed, and singled out Argie by name during a phone call with a New York Cannabis Insider reporter.

“I know it was Jenny,” Fagon admitted at the time.

Argie told NY Cannabis Insider on Sunday that the news of Mr. Fagon’s administrative leave was bittersweet. “I’ve only ever asked for a fair playing field to allow small businesses, all social equity applicants, and licensees the chance to innovate and shine.”

“I hope others who were afraid to speak up now feel like they have a voice. “I urge the OCM to collaborate closely with the [Cannabis Control Board] and those of us working to steer the New York cannabis industry toward a bright and equitable future,” she stated.

Argie sued the OCM last week to get a stop-work order lifted on her facility, which had been issued earlier this month. The stop-work order came six days after NY Cannabis Insider contacted the state agency for comment on a three-month probe into charges of retaliation.

A second enforcement action targeted Argie’s business, halting her cash flow, prompting the quarantining of her items and the closure of her facility, she added.

Argie claims in court documents that the enforcement was a heavy-handed response to her public statements regarding the December recall.

The processor, a cancer survivor who has advocated for New York-based firms, would go out of business by the end of the month if the penalties were not waived, she said.

“Fagon deserves due process, and it’s my hope that this has taught us all a valuable lesson,” said Ruben Lindo, an entrepreneur and the creator of multi-state cannabis firm Blak Mar Farms. “That it is our fundamental right as Americans to speak out against the government and express our displeasure with its activities because they touch everyone, regardless of race or creed.

“Unfortunately, Jenny did not have the same opportunity,” he said.

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