New York hemp farmers will be able to start growing weed this spring if they get a license from the state under a new program approved by Governor Kathy Hochul Tuesday.
The governor signed a law authorizing hemp producers to get a conditional permit to cultivate the devil’s lettuce outdoors or in a greenhouse for two years in the Empire State.
“I am proud to sign this bill, which 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 governor said in a statement on Feb. 22.
The Office of Cannabis Management — the state agency tasked with regulating medical and recreational marijuana — will develop the application process and open the program “as soon as possible” to be ready for this year’s growing season, according to the governor’s office.
The license will allow farmers to grow one acre of flowering canopy outdoors or 25,000 square feet in a greenhouse using up to 20 artificial lights.
They can also use a combination of indoor and outdoor with a maximum area of 30,000 square feet as long as the greenhouse portion does not exceed 20,000 square feet.
Farmers must have previously been authorized industrial hemp research partners for the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets, cultivating hemp for its non-intoxicating cannabinoid content for at least two of the past four years, according to the governor’s office.
Licensees will also have to take part in a so-called social equity mentorship program working with social and economic equity groups on training for how to cultivate cannabis.
Advocates and politicians had pushed for legalization to be done in a way that helps address the harms of marijuana prohibition.
“This legislation calls for a Social Equity Mentorship Program, which will create a viable and inclusive path for social and economic equity partners interested in cannabis cultivation and processing to gain invaluable knowledge and experience in this emerging industry,” said the state Assembly’s Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D–Buffalo) in a statement.
Growers also have to meet a set of environmental goals, to make sure the cannabis is produced in a sustainable way before it hits the shelves of dispensaries, which may not happen this year due to delays, The City reported.
The state legalized recreational weed on March 31, 2021 with the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, and the governor and the state legislature established the OCM as well as the Cannabis Control Board to oversee that agency.