When will recreational marijuana be sold in NY?

Recreational marijuana is legal in New York, but the department created to oversee the program seems to be just smoke and mirrors.

Before New Yorkers can walk into a store and buy marijuana, the state first has to set up the Cannabis Control Board.

This board will oversee the rollout of what will eventually be one of the country’s largest recreational marijuana programs, including creating regulations and granting licenses to dealers.

But farmers anxious to participate in the new industry are starting to get concerned about the slow rollout.

“The female plant builds resin and that resin is where all the magic happens, on these leaves and in these flowers, and the terpenes just smell great,” Rich Morris, owner of Toadflax Nursery said, leaning down to sniff the plant’s scent.

Morris helps cultivate hemp in upstate New York and says growing the plants outdoors makes all the difference.

“You see a lot of these companies and big corporations coming in and they want to build these big indoor facilities,” Morris said. “The carbon footprint of an indoor facility is tremendous compared to sun grown. Sun grown is what the farmer can enter into, he can afford that. We can have sun grown and greenhouse.”

Upstate farmers are hopeful that the new recreational marijuana program will allow for cannabis plants to be grown outdoors, unlike the medical marijuana program, where plants have to be grown in a greenhouse.

But this question, along with so many others, can’t be answered until the governor and the Legislature appoint members to the Cannabis Control Board.

Frank Popolizio, owner of Homestead Farms, says he wants to participate in the program, but needs to make financial decisions soon, such as if he wants to buy more land or build more infrastructure.

“We’re still waiting for the regulations and that ambiguity sometimes, it puts you on your heels,” Popolizio said. “We don’t know what to do, to get ready or prepare. Are we going to be candidates, because we’ve been farming hemp and cannabis already? Does that give us an edge?”

The recreational marijuana bill sets a goal of issuing at least 50% of all adult-use businesses licenses to social and economic equity applicants, including distressed farmers.

Since the program gives more farmers a chance to participate, Popolizio says they are eager to be seen as a contender.

“Finally, there’s an industry where the farming world can prosper, and hopefully we don’t lose track of that in this particular process,” Popolizio said.