ALBANY, N.Y. — Hemp farmers in New York state will be able to apply for a license to grow marijuana this year under legislation signed Tuesday by Gov. Kathy Hochul.
The new law will allow hemp growers to apply for a conditional adult-use cannabis cultivator license in anticipation of the recreational marijuana market that is expected to open up in New York sometime in the coming year.
Hochul, a Democrat, said in a news release that the bill will jump-start “the safe, equitable and inclusive new industry we are building.”
It’s been nearly a year since New York legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults, but officials are still working on regulations for growing and selling cannabis legally. New York’s only legal marijuana growers to date are 10 companies that supply medical weed to roughly 125,000 registered patients.
New York’s legal recreational marijuana market is expected to be one of the nation’s largest once it is up and running.
The new law allowing hemp growers to apply for a marijuana license throws a welcome lifeline to hemp farmers, who have seen prices tumble nationwide since a peak in 2019, shortly after Congress legalized the plant. Factors in the price collapse include oversupply and regulatory uncertainty surrounding CBD, a popular, non-intoxicating chemical derived from hemp.
“So the opportunity to grow another crop that’s profitable is certainly something that’s welcome,” said Jonathan Miller, general counsel for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, an industry group.
At the same time, the group is wary of blurring lines between marijuana and hemp, which gained Congress’ approval as a substance that doesn’t get people high.
“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,” Miller said.
Under the new law, conditionally licensed cannabis growers must meet certain requirements including sustainable farming practices and participation in a social equity mentorship program.
State Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, called the legislation “an important step in ensuring an adequate supply of cannabis for the adult-use market while prioritizing New York farmers, supporting social and economic equity mentorship programs and encouraging environmentally sustainable agricultural practices.”