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Hochul signs bill creating provisional licenses to grow marijuana


Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation Monday that will allow state-licensed hemp growers to apply for provisional licenses to begin cultivating recreational marijuana.

The legislation created a Conditional Adult-use Cannabis Cultivator license, and existing hemp growers that receive one would be able to cultivate up to an acre of marijuana plants outdoors or 25,000 square feet in a greenhouse, with no more than 20 lights. The two-year licenses will also allow the growers to distribute cannabis until June 1, 2023.
Zach Sarkis of Growing Family Farm inspecting the last bits of bud remaining on the 2020 hemp crop. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • Zach Sarkis of Growing Family Farm inspecting the last bits of bud remaining on the 2020 hemp crop.
Zach Sarkis, founder of NY Hemp Lab and FLWR CITY Collective who grows hemp and CBD bud at Growing Family Farm, sees the license as a major opportunity. Sarkis said Monday that he plans to apply for a provisional license and begin growing.

“We’ve been working pretty tirelessly to dial in our processes and quality control to make sure that we’re bringing high quality cannabis products to the market, and that’s just CBD,” Sarkis said. “So really, we have all of the infrastructure and everything we need to be able to play in full-spectrum cannabis.”

License holders will be required to participate in a social equity program, under which they’d train minorities and women who want to enter the cannabis industry.

Hochul, in a statement, said the provisional license would give small growers a leg up in the industry as recreational dispensaries open, though that milestone is still a ways away.

"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," Hochul said. "New York State will continue to lead the way in delivering on our commitment to bring economic opportunity and growth to every New Yorker in every corner of our great state."

While New York legalized recreational marijuana in March 2021, it’s still unclear when exactly legal dispensaries will begin operating in the state. Tremaine Wright, chair of the state’s Cannabis Control Board, said in October that the Office of Cannabis Management estimated it would be 18 months before cannabis dispensaries open — that means the first licensed shop would open its doors in spring 2023.

“This law places New York's farmers first in line to grow cannabis, the timing of which is critical to our efforts to roll out the adult use program,” Wright said, in a statement. “With this bill, we're continuing to put equity and inclusion at the forefront of the new cannabis industry we're building."

Sarkis, like many in the fledgling world of weed in New York, has been concerned that when the industry hits its stride, it will be dominated by large corporate interests. He said licenses like this ensure healthier competition for small producers in the market.

“It’s really huge, it means jobs, it means economic opportunity for these small businesses that have been struggling to operate for the past few years in the hemp space,” Sarkis said.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or [email protected].