New York hemp farmers get first chance to grow recreational cannabis

New York hemp farmers get first chance to grow recreational cannabis

New York is giving hemp farmers a head start in growing cannabis for recreational use.

A new law gives them first access to apply for a two-year license to grow THC-rich strains of cannabis, reports the New York Daily News. It also allows them to minimally process and distribute cannabis flower without an adult-use processor or distributor license until June 1, 2023.

The licensing measure because official Feb. 22 with a signature from Gov. Kathy Hochul. Licensed growers will be able to start planting marijuana this spring.

“This legislation aligns the rollout of the adult-use program with the natural growing season so that products made with sun-grown cannabis can be available when dispensaries open their doors,” said Jen Metzger, a member of the state’s Cannabis Control Board and former Senate Agriculture Chair, said in a press release.

The state legalized recreational adult use almost a year ago and adults 21 and older can now possess and consume cannabis, privately or publicly. But officials are still working out the details of how to regulate farming and sales in the state. The new law ensures that planting season won’t pass without having the farming piece

“[F]armers can now put seeds in the ground to ensure we meet the demand of this burgeoning industry,” Senator Michelle Hinchey said of the legislation.

“Farmers can now put seeds in the ground to ensure we meet the demand of this burgeoning industry.”

— Senator Michelle Hinchey

According to Marijuana Moment, New York hasn’t authorized any retailers to sell cannabis for recreational adult use yet. Regardless, as Forbes recently reported, a budding gray market has emerged as entrepreneurs try to get a jump on corporate cannabis.

In any case, Governor Hochul said the bill “positions New York's farmers to be the first to grow cannabis and jumpstart the safe, equitable and inclusive new industry we are building.”

The licenses are conditional, meaning they include requirements farmers must meet including environmentally-friendly cultivation practices and teaching others how to cultivate cannabis through a social equity mentorship program.

Of the conditions, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “This authority will help secure enough safe, regulated, and environmentally conscious cannabis products to meet the demand of the adult-use cannabis market when retail dispensaries open.”

New York has committed to making racial equity a priority in cannabis policy reforms. In January, the governor's executive budget proposed using $200 million from cannabis licensing fees and tax revenue to support to applicants from communities harmed by past enforcement efforts against cannabis.

Additionally, to be eligible for a conditional license farmers have to

  • have grown hemp through the Department of Agriculture and Markets’s research program for at least two of the last four years;
  • be in good standing with the program;
  • have at least 51% ownership stake in a business licensed to grow hemp.

Now York's governor and legislature have been acting quickly on cannabis reforms. Since last October the state’s Office of Cannabis Management has:

  • Launched the Cannabinoid Hemp Program, putting in place protections for the public and provisions to support New York's CBD businesses;
  • Expanded access to the Medical Cannabis Program by empowering health care providers to determine if medical cannabis can help their patients, lowering costs by permanently waiving patient fees and allowing the sale of whole flower, and adding to the list of providers who can certify patients;
  • Launched its first wave of community outreach events with 11 regional events, including one in Spanish, that's already engaged more than 5,000 attendees.