Axel Bernabe has over 20 years of legal experience and robust knowledge of cannabis regulation and policy. For six years prior to joining the OCM, Axel was counsel on health for the New York State Executive Chamber, which included direction over the medical cannabis and cannabinoid hemp programs. Axel spearheaded the legalization of adult-use cannabis, helping build consensus around the MRTA. Prior to the Governor’s Office, Axel was a law firm partner and nationally recognized antitrust expert.
Where do you see the cannabis industry in New York State in five years?
The industry we create will be interconnected, delivering opportunity and justice to the communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs, distressed farmers, and ultimately all New Yorkers. I truly hope that the industry will be characterized by thousands of small businesses, many owned by social equity applicants, engaged in a local and sustainable supply chain that provides plenty of choice and innovation to consumers and patients.
What attracted you to the cannabis industry?
The ability to deliver social and economic justice has always been the core of the attraction. There will never be another opportunity like this where we can build a new industry from the ground up that reduces risk to public health and centers on justice. Using my antitrust and economic background, I hope to help ensure that the new industry favors small- and medium-sized enterprises, and provides a competitive market that fosters innovation, is locally sourced, and is focused on sustainable products. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help craft a compassionate, community-centered form of capitalism.
Tell us one fun fact about cannabis!
Cannabis is the only substance I am aware of that society has permitted to be sold as both a medicine and a recreational substance. Indeed, the cannabis sativa plant is unique in that it straddles six entirely different regulatory pathways from industrial usage, to food, supplements, recreational drug, and medicine. Truly unique!
Cannabis has clear value to people’s health. Tell us your favorite way to stay healthy and fit.
I have always believed that a sound body equals a sound mind, so exercise and proper diet have always been central to my lifestyle. I cycle, play soccer, and try to keep up with my kids – as long as I can out-sprint my 11 year old, I know I’m still in shape. But more importantly, recognizing how the small things we do daily can have a big influence on our state of mental and physical health means being mindful and intentional about what we consume every day. It’s the same thing with cannabis: understanding how cannabinoids interact with your endocannabinoid system and how to moderate your dose for maximum effect over time is the strategy to long-term consumption and wellbeing.