New York Hemp Growers Transition to Cannabis

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul recently announced that the New York Cannabis Control board has approved over 50 Cannabis Cultivator licenses, allowing existing New York State hemp growers to become legal adult-use cannabis suppliers. This is intended to expedite the sale of recreational cannabis in New York State. 

New York Cultivators Transitioning From Hemp To Cannabis

Since adult-use marijuana was legalized last year, New York State legislators have struggled to figure out their entrance into what was previously a black market. The state’s neglect to develop a formal retail market has caused a spur of unlicensed dispensaries to pop up all across New York City. The sale of recreational marijuana took place by including marijuana as a gift-with-purchase, a move the Office of Cannabis Management has unsuccessfully attempted to halt. To combat the black-market monopoly and formally introduce legal marijuana into the market, legislators have been brainstorming ideas on how to speed up the market launch of recreational cannabis products and introduce them into stores smoothly. 

The solution to product availability came in the form of utilizing pre-existing hemp farmers by giving them new, temporary cannabis-growth licenses. By allowing hemp growers to transition to cannabis cultivation, New York State legislators seek to prevent a delayed market launch while also alleviating potential supply-chain issues. This move has given hemp growers a license to grow cannabis with the condition that the product is “minimally processed and distribute cannabis products, provided that such final products shall be in the form of cannabis flower.” Those who wish to further extract cannabinoids need to apply for a separate license. This temporary growth license is valid for up to two years, and New York State hopes to have a more formal, regulated Cannabis Control Board in charge of licenses. 

Entering The Market

The problem of distribution and sale, however, remains. Governor Hochul pledged $200 million in business loans for those named “equity applicants.” Its intention is to provide support for those wishing to open dispensaries in the upcoming years. Priority licenses will be given to those convicted of a marijuana-related offense or whose parents, spouses, or children were convicted of an offense in New York State before the legalization of marijuana. This clause intends to be justice-oriented and seeks to remedy the damage caused by anti-marijuana laws, but critics claim that the requirement to demonstrate “prior business experience and success” is unreasonable. California allegedly faced similar pushback from the public, and New York State representatives are holding firm.

Cannabis Control Board Chair member, Tremaine Wright, says a maximum of 200 businesses will receive conditional dispensary licenses, and products are expected to reach shelves as early as the fall of this year. 50% of these conditional licenses are intended to go towards those now being referred to as “equity applicants”, meaning women-owned businesses, members of impacted communities, or disabled veterans.

Requiring proof-of business acumen could be seen as counterintuitive to the goal of retributive justice and equity. Members of oppressed communities likely lack the resources and cultural capital necessary to demonstrate their potential success, but legislators defend this move, saying that the loans need to be paid back and that this is standard practice.

The treatment of cannabis in the United States has a long way to go. Legal markets and state support for the private cannabis sector are strides in the right direction, but there remains a deep, cruel history of anti-drug policies whose effects are still felt to this day. Until marijuana is federally legalized across the country, states like New York will be left to their own devices. Hopefully, the success of states like Washington, Colorado, California, and now maybe New York, will set the USA on the path towards justice, equity, and a booming cannabis economy.

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