Investigative Article…”$200M cannabis fund info about Chris Webber, Siebert Williams comes to light”

It took the state exactly 100 days to release information on the players managing New York’s $200 million cannabis social equity fund, but it’s now public and the details are, in parts, expected, confusing, surprising – and untrue.

As a refresher, NY Cannabis Insider requested documents from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) in September that would show how the agency ended up selecting Social Equity Impact Ventures to raise and manage money that is essential to the state’s promise of equity in its future cannabis marketplace.

The records request followed confusion, rumors, and worries among cannabis entrepreneurs that Impact Ventures was not thoroughly vetted or qualified for the job. That’s because the team – composed of NBA Hall of Famer Chris Webber, entrepreneur Lavetta Willis, and executives with financial firm Siebert Williams Shank – has not yet raised the $150 million from private investors that is necessary to secure and retrofit up to 150 dispensaries as part of the state’s Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) program.

DASNY delayed producing those records for more than three months, and did so only after NY Cannabis Insider published stories about the agency’s non-responsiveness every day for weeks, and after enlisting the NY Committee on Open Government to step in.

The documents include a partially redacted version of Impact Ventures’ response to DASNY’s request for proposals submitted in June. The response spans 86 pages and includes new details on the team, its qualifications, and – notably – its concerns over raising the $150 million within the state’s proposed timeline.

The documents also confirm that Impact Ventures did submit information to the state that was not true or, at best, was a stretch.

NY Cannabis Insider contacted a spokesperson for Impact Ventures weeks ago. The spokesperson initially agreed to answer questions – but then stopped responding.

The role of Siebert Williams Shank

In June, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Impact Ventures as the state’s top pick to manage the New York Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund, and the headlines at the time all keyed in on the same thing – that Chris Webber, a famous athlete, was spearheading the fund management team alongside his business partner, Lavetta Willis.

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