New York is giving licensed hemp cultivators an early crack at growing adult-use marijuana this spring in order to supply the state’s adult-use market next year.
A new law signed Tuesday by Gov. Kathy Hochul sets up a first-of-its-kind “conditional adult-use cultivator” license, aimed at speeding marijuana to market when adult-use sales become legal next year.
The idea came about as a way to prevent lengthy delays experienced by other states in the rollouts of adult-use marijuana markets. In order to be eligible to grow marijuana under a conditional license, New Yorkers must:
- Have a hemp license from New York’s Department of Agriculture and Markets as of Dec. 31 of last year.
- Have grown and harvested hemp for at least two of the last four years.
- Have at least 51% ownership stake in a business licensed to grow hemp.
- Participate in an environmental sustainability program and a social equity mentorship program.
Hochul said after signing the measure that giving hemp operators first crack “positions New York’s farmers to be the first to grow cannabis and jump-start the safe, equitable and inclusive new industry we are building.”
New York legalized adult-use marijuana last year and authorized hemp production in 2017.
Last year New York licensed 748 hemp growers on some 33,000 acres and 1.1 million square feet of indoor and greenhouse cultivation.
The conditional marijuana growing licenses allow farmers to “minimally process and distribute cannabis products, provided that such final products shall be in the form of cannabis flower.”
For New York hemp operators who want to further process or extract cannabinoids from hemp, a separate conditional processor license will be required.
Those licenses will be reserved for people who have already applied for the state’s new “cannabinoid hemp processsor” license, a kind of license set up last year. It wasn’t immediately clear how many people have applied for those licenses, which cost $400 and are good for two years.
Hemp activists cheered the conditional license law but cautioned that hemp and marijuana are different varieties of cannabis with very different regulatory hurdles.
“This is a temporary, conditional program, and we want to see how things go, but we want to make sure that in the long run, those boundaries are kept separate,” Jonathan Miller, lawyer for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, told WNBC-TV in New York.
The law does not set fees for either kind of conditional license. The conditional licenses will expire by 2024, after which time growers and processors will need regular licenses from the state’s new Cannabis Control Board, which oversees both the hemp and marijuana industries.