New York Cannabis Farmers Markets in Limbo

Many of the state's cannabis farmers still haven't sold their 2022 crops.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office appears to have put an indefinite hold on an idea floated in May by state regulators for marijuana farmers markets, a plan popular with growers because it would have provided a safety valve for hundreds of pounds of unsold marijuana crops from 2022.

The idea was first announced by the state Office of Cannabis Management almost two months ago, at which point OCM staff said they were hoping to have some farmers markets operational by late June.

But Hochul’s office balked at the entire idea, said Brittany Carbone, a licensed cannabis farmer and board member of the Cannabis Association of New York, which represents many of the growers.

“Short answer, no,” Carbone said when asked if there’d been any progress on farmers markets so far.

“The feedback we’ve been getting is, the governor’s office is not necessarily giving it a hard no, but definitely has hesitations, really in terms of … wanting to ensure that the security and public health and safety, those types of things,” Carbone explained.

Carbone said her understanding is that the OCM and the Cannabis Control Board are still lobbying for the concept – which they’ve labeled Grower’s Showcases, a term Carbone said is probably more politically friendly than farmers markets.

But time is running short for financially strapped farmers who are still looking to unload last year’s crops, she said. The suggested model would be compliant with all existing rules and regulations, security protocols, and safety measures, and won’t be as loosely run as a traditional farmers market.

“It’s a matter of getting the governor’s office to understand this wouldn’t be a free-for-all, by any means,” Carbone said.

And, Carbone noted, the new sales channel – whatever it’s called – could have launched by this past weekend in Binghamton at the local July Fest, because both growers and licensed retailers have been actively networking with locals all over New York to line up markets.

At least one local cannabis entrepreneur, she said, got permission from July Fest to set up a point-of-sale system and several tables for cannabis farmers.

The Binghamton festival is only one of as many as 15 such local events where cannabis farmers could sell their wares in cooperation with a licensed retailer in coming months, Carbone estimated.

“We really just need the state’s approval and the green light to get it going,” Carbone said. “The OCM and CCB, they’re definitely pushing to make this happen. I haven’t given up hope. But from the standpoint of the license holders, there’s no time to waste.”

When asked for comment, OCM spokesman Aaron Ghitelman wrote in an email Friday that “no final decisions have been made with respect to farmers markets.”

John Schroyer

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