As New York readies for recreational cannabis to hit shelves, a state lawmaker has proposed that businesses making cannabis products in the state use biodegradable hemp-based packaging instead of plastic.
State Senator Michelle Hinchey announced legislation Nov. 19 that, if passed, would direct the State’s Cannabis Control Board to develop a plan making industrial hemp the primary packaging source for all cannabis products made in New York.
Hinchey, who is also the Senate Agriculture Chair, hopes the measure would:
tap into hemp’s potential as sustainably sourced, biodegradable packaging
minimize plastic use
create a new market for New York’s small farmers who, as elsewhere, are struggling to compete in an increasingly industrialized marketplace
spur economic growth in upstate communities
The proposal would also establish an incubator program with financial incentives for farmers and cannabis-based businesses who help develop hemp-based packaging materials.
Hemp has been turned into everything from building materials to fuel, and makes a bioplastic that’s reportedly 3.5 times stronger than petroleum-based plastic. Under the right composting conditions, hemp-based plastic can decompose in as little as 3-6 months. Conventional plastic bottles are estimated to take 450 years to decompose, and create toxic molecular byproducts in the process.
"There is no other natural resource that offers the same environmental, agricultural, and economic potential as hemp,” Hinchey said in a press release. “[…] With my bill, we have an incredible opportunity to unleash the potential of biodegradable hemp-based products that slashes our use of plastics, incentivizes farmers and entrepreneurs to be part of this innovation stage, and propels an industry that has not reached even a fraction of its full potential. Environmentally-safe industrialized hemp is the future of manufacturing and I look forward to getting my bill passed in the 2022 session so that New York can lead the way in this emerging market.”
“We have an incredible opportunity to unleash the potential of biodegradable hemp-based products that slashes our use of plastics, incentivizes farmers and entrepreneurs to be part of this innovation stage, and propels an industry that has not reached even a fraction of its full potential.”
— New York State Senator Michelle Hinchey
Hinchey said the bill, Senate Bill S7508, would be one of her top priorities for the 2022 state legislative session when the Legislature convenes in January.
“What we have done is directed the state’s new cannabis control board to develop a plan so that industrialized hemp can be used as a packaging material. That way we won’t use plastics, will be using something that is biodegradable, that will support our farmers, specifically New York State farmers – small- and mid-sized family farms with a new product and create the demand,” Hinchey told the Mid Hudson News.
New York legalized adult-use cannabis in March of 2021. Delta-9 THC possession is now legal in the state, but regulators are still developing rules for retail sales. Foundations of the plan are in place. The Office of Cannabis Management will license growers, processors, distributors and dispensaries. Product makers will have to meet standards for lab testing, packaging and labeling. OCM will also found a program encouraging people from communities harmed by former drug policies and enforcement practices to be part of the new industry.
Hemp-derived cannabinoids are governed by a separate set of rules in New York.
Projections for 2024 show the state generating $245 million annually from taxes on cannabis sales, according to the state’s comptroller. In year one, though, taxes and fees are expected to generate just a fraction of that, about $20 million.