New York State Approves First Cannabis Licenses

Six Dutchess hemp farms to grow pot for adult use

Six Dutchess County hemp farmers are among 52 statewide who last week received licenses to grow marijuana for retail sale.

hudson river hempThe newly created Cannabis Control Board on April 14 approved temporary cultivation licenses for Hudson River Hemp in Wappingers Falls and Hopewell Junction; Passion Field Farm in Millbrook; The Hemp Division in Millerton; Spadafarm in Lagrangeville; and Clear Natural and Lunulata, whose locations were not given. 

None of the licenses were issued to farms in Putnam County.

More than 150 farms applied for the licenses, which are issued by the state Office of Cannabis Management, which oversees the control board. New York legalized the growing and sale of marijuana a year ago; granting cultivation licenses is the first step to building a taxable industry. 

Next will come retail shops. The Beacon City Council has allowed sales and on-site consumption by taking no action to prevent them; Cold Spring voters in November allowed retail but turned down on-site consumption; and the Nelsonville and Philipstown boards voted to disallow both types, although they can change course with another vote. 

Each cultivation license allows farmers to grow marijuana on up to 1 acre of land or 25,000 square feet of greenhouse space. Another option allows growing both  indoors (up to 30,000 square feet) and outdoors (20,000). The temporary licenses expire in two years, when farmers in good standing can apply for a standard license. 

For now, hemp farmers will supply the first marijuana to retail dispensaries, which were authorized under the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act. Enacted on March 31, 2021, the MRTA allows anyone 21 and older to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana and keep up to 5 pounds in the home. 

“Growing season waits for no one, and we’re moving as quickly as possible to help our local farmers take full advantage of it this spring,” said Tremaine Wright, chair of the Cannabis Control Board. 

Sales from this year’s harvest are expected to begin as early as the end of the year, when the first retail shops could open. Just as the state prioritized hemp farmers for the cultivation licenses, it is giving people with marijuana convictions first crack at retail licenses in order to ensure legalization benefits communities, primarily Black and Latino, where marijuana arrests were high. 

Under proposed Cannabis Control Board regulations, conditional licenses to sell marijuana will initially go to residents who have a marijuana-related conviction from before March 31, 2021; have a parent, guardian, child, spouse or dependent with a pot conviction before that date; or are a dependent of someone found guilty of a marijuana offense. They also must have experience running a business. 

Business entities applying for a license must have a majority owner who meets those criteria, or a partner satisfying those requirements who owns at least 30 percent of the company and exercises “sole control,” according to the proposed regulations. 

Retail licenses would also be open to nonprofits that “serve justice-involved individuals and communities with historically high rates of arrest, conviction, incarceration or other indicators of law enforcement activity for marijuana-related offenses,” and that operate a profitable “social enterprise.” 

The state’s 2022-23 budget includes $200 million for a “social equity fund” that will provide grants to dispensary owners to help with startup costs.

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