New law allows qualified farmers to plant cannabis crop for 2022 season

Legislative Gazette photos by Devin Cabrera

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill today, clearing the way for qualified farmers to begin planting cannabis this spring.

The legislation creates a new “Conditional Adult-use Cannabis Cultivator” license, establishing a pathway for existing New York hemp farmers to apply for a conditional license to grow cannabis in the 2022 growing season for the forthcoming adult-use cannabis market.

Conditionally licensed cannabis farmers must meet certain requirements, including safe, sustainable, and environmentally friendly cultivation practices, participation in a social equity mentorship program, and engagement in a labor peace agreement with a bona fide labor organization.

The bill moved quickly through the Assembly and Senate.

On Feb. 15, 2022, the New York State Senate passed Sen. Michelle Hinchey’s bill S.8084-a, establishing conditional use cultivator licenses to cannabis cultivators who will then be able to process and distribute products.

This bill aims to meet the needs of the future adult-use cannabis retail market.

The bill is also meant to help facilitate mentorships between new cultivators and experienced growers as a part of the Social Equity Program.

“The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act set the foundation for our state to build a truly circular cannabis economy that puts New York farmers and small business dispensaries at the center of growth and production,” Hinchey said, “and with the signing of this bill, farmers can now put seeds in the ground to ensure we meet the demand of this burgeoning industry.”

With a conditional adult-use cannabis cultivation license, farmers can grow outdoors or in a greenhouse for up to two years from the issuance of the license.

It also allows them to manufacture and distribute cannabis flower products without holding an adult-use processor or distributor license, until June 1, 2023.

Cultivators are limited to one acre (43,560 square feet) of flowering canopy outdoors or 25,000 square feet in a greenhouse and can use up to 20 artificial lights.

They can also split between outdoor and greenhouse grows with a maximum total canopy of 30,000 square feet as long as the greenhouse flowering canopy remains under 20,000 square feet.

The Senate bill is co-sponsored by four other senators, including Jeremy Cooney, D-Rochester.

“Since taking office, I have been a vocal supporter of the legislation of adult-use cannabis and worked to ensure this new economic opportunity directly benefits those most harmed by the failed ‘War on Drugs,’” Cooney said. “This legislation will allow New York growers to get seeds in the soil to jumpstart this new economic sector and start creating good paying local jobs. Our focus continues to be on developing the most inclusive recreational cannabis market nationwide and ensuring that we invest in cities, like Rochester. I am proud to co-sponsor this bill and vote for it on the Senate floor.”

These conditional licenses made available by the bill are not the same as the traditional licenses that will be offered later and will kickstart cultivation in the state. The state recommends that future license applicants be in good standing, meet all requirements, and apply separately for a full license in the future.

“We are beginning to undo the devastating impacts over 90 years of unequal enforcement of marijuana prohibition had on too many lives and communities,” said Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, the sponsor of the Assembly bill, which was introduced on Feb. 11 “MRTA ensures that the legal adult-use market will be centered on equity and economic justice for communities of color and individuals that have been harmed most by the War on Drugs in the state of New York.

“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,” she added. “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.”