NY Enacts Legislation to Let Hemp Farmers Grow Marijuana

New York

Existing hemp businesses in NY that are taking steps to promote equity will have the opportunity to receive a conditional license to grow cannabis in the state. Governor Kathy Hochul just signed the legislation on February 22nd to make it official.

Governor Hochul is calling the bill an important step that puts New York’s farmers first and something that she believes will help to jump-start the new cannabis business in the state. 

Currently, in New York, adults who are 21 and older can possess and publicly consume marijuana. The problem is that rules for licensing and selling are not finalized. As of now, there aren’t any retailers that are actually licensed and authorized to sell marijuana in the state.

The goal of this new bill is to help give a boost to the adult-use cannabis market while also promoting what NY calls equity goals in the cannabis business.

The prospectives for these conditional licenses to grow cannabis have to meet certain criteria to be accepted. They need to have been authorized to grow hemp by the state Department of Agriculture as of December 31, 2021. They also must have grown hemp in two of the past four years. On top of that, they are required to “participate in an environmental sustainability program and a social equity mentorship program.” 

Governor Hochul did not waste much time signing this bill into law once she received it. Once lawmakers in the House and Senate sent it to her desk it was just a few short days later that it become law. The hope is that these licenses to grow cannabis will get the cannabis business headed in the right direction when retail dispensaries do open up.

“With the passage of this bill, we have the opportunity to create a responsible start to the adult-use cannabis industry by authorizing temporary conditional cultivator and processor licenses to current New York hemp farmers,” Peoples-Stokes, who recently launched a political action committee that will help elect pro-marijuana reform candidates, 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,” the leader said. “The temporary conditional licenses authorized by this bill will ultimately help realize the vision and goals of the MRTA.”

More on Social Equity and Environmental Sustainability

The bill talks a lot about social equity and lays out a plan for a social equity mentorship program. The bill elaborates on this idea by saying “Such mentorship program shall be directed to train individuals interested in becoming licensed cultivators and shall leverage remote and in-person mentees with experience in agriculture business management, sustainable cannabis cultivation, and best practices,”. 

In the current form, this would include individuals from communities that are perceived to be more impacted by prohibition. NY would include businesses owned by women and minorities in this category. Also, distressed farmers and veterans that have been disabled through their service to our country. Other bills are seeking to expand these classifications to include groups such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and non-binary people.

The Office of Cannabis Management can issue conditional licenses until June 1, 2023. After that timeframe business must apply under a standard-use adult license. All of the conditional licenses will phase out and be invalid after June 30, 2024.

Any of the conditional license holders that maintain good standing and remain in compliance will “be eligible to apply for and receive an adult-use cultivation license, provided the licensee can meet all requirements of the new license.”

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