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New York's new marijuana law has provisions for small farmers

Apr 23, 2021 2:05 pm

Phillip Pantuso reports for The River Newsroom about how the new law legalizing marijuana in New York will help small farmers. First, State Senator Michelle Hinchey, a Democrat from Saugerties, helped get a provision allowing hemp flower to be sold in retail stores, which was not included in earlier versions of the legislation. Farmers don't need to create fancy processing structures for flower production. “I’m a freshman senator, and I was still able to come in and be at the table with these points that we recognize needed to be changed, both as it pertains to the language around small farmers and the agriculture community, and recognizing that this provision was not in it,” Hinchey says. “They wanted to make the best bill possible.” Farmers are also eligible to get help getting a licenses from the new Cannabis Control Board. They have a social equity plan with a goal of issuing 50 percent of licenses to social equity applicants, including those harmed by the war on drugs, low-income folks, minority- and women-owned businesses, disabled veterans—and “distressed farmers.” That is a farmer who has suffered from low commodity prices, loss of land, and/or operating losses, and works a small farm as defined by the Department of Agriculture. That “opens the door for more people to become [cannabis] farmers in not only in the Hudson Valley, but throughout the state, because the definition has expanded to include members of groups that have been historically underrepresented in farm ownership,” says Donna Burns, president of the board of the NY Small Farms. Hinchey claims an earlier version of the law, “would have been actually detrimental to our small farmers.” The new law also includes a small-scale production microbusiness license, with a lower cap on how much cannabis can be grown, but allows farmers to sell their products on site, like the farm brewery and farm winery licenses. “That’s something you can set up, say, as a farmer who is doing tomatoes, you have an extra greenhouse, and you want to take a shot at cannabis,” says Jason Minard, in-house counsel for Hempire State Growers. “It’s going to create a more level playing field. The state is gonna see a lot of microbusiness applications.” There is much more about the state's new marijuana law to read about in The River Newsroom.