New York Regulators Pledge to Open Cannabis Farmers Markets 'Quickly'

No on-site consumption will be allowed.

Marijuana farmers markets are coming to New York state, potentially within a month, state regulators told a group of licensed growers during a virtual town hall on Thursday.

“The solution we’re working on right now … are what we’re calling the New York Cannabis Growers Showcase,” said John Kagia, director of policy at the New York Office of Cannabis Management.

“It’s a farmers market model, through which growers would have the ability to get together and organize farmers markets, in partnership with a retailer, where a minimum of three growers and a retailer can organize events,” Kagia said.

The primary requirements for such markets to be set up and run is sign-off from whichever local town or city the event would be held in, and that a retailer partner is part of the arrangement in order to facilitate the actual sales, Kagia said.

But the actual locations will likely be up to farmers themselves to find and negotiate terms for such markets, in part to give growers freedom to find creative solutions and also in part because the OCM doesn’t have the time and manpower to pursue such projects.

Too Much Marijuana

A big reason for the push is also to allow the growers to sell through much of their existing inventory from last year’s harvest, since there are still only 13 operational retailers, meaning there’s still a major bottleneck for the roughly 200 farmers who grew outdoor cannabis in 2022 and have been waiting to get their flower to market.

“Growers can sell flower and pre-rolls, so consumer tested and packaged product, and do so through a retailer, but at non-storefront locations,” Kagia said. “We’re thinking very expansively about the type of places this can be done. And as long as … we can get municipal approval to host these events, we’re going to be pretty liberal.”

“If you have a farm or a location where you want to set up an event, we’ll support that. But also if you want to piggyback on an event that already exists, a concert, a festival, some other sort of agricultural event, and there’s a way to get our cannabis folks in there, we would love for that to happen,” Kagia said.

And though a precise timeline for when cannabis farmers markets may launch is unclear, OCM Chief Equity Officer Damian Fagon said they want to get the markets operational “optimistically, within a month” of the meeting on Thursday.

“A lot of this is going to be on you guys to organize, to self-organize,” Fagon said to the farmers. “A lot of what we want to do here is create guidelines for this pilot and see what you do with it, let you run with it.”

No Smoking

One major difference between the upcoming New York cannabis farmers markets and other events in, say, California is that consumption won’t be allowed, at least not at the outset. That’s because the possibility of cannabis smoking raises a new specter of permitting from the Department of Public Health, which could slow down the launch of the farmers markets this summer, Kagia said.

Farmers will also have to be careful about not overlapping with events that also sell alcohol to consumers, Fagon said.

“Sponsor, municipality, no alcohol same-site, that’s pretty much what we’re looking for,” he said, though he also clarified that cannabis sales and alcohol sales will likely be allowed at the same events, just not in the same actual physical areas.

But, Kagia said, if the farmers can get organized, they’ll be allowed to have as many farmers markets as they can schedule, and said there won’t be any geographical restrictions for where growers can arrange for farmers markets, though there probably will be for retailers.

“We’re trying to give the community as much flexibility to do as many of these events as possible, if there’s the opportunity to set up one of these every day of the week, or one of these every weekend, we’ll back that,” Kagia said.

The Cannabis Association of New York (CANY), which organized the town hall, hailed the news in an emailed statement and said it “fully supports” the move.

Marijuana farmers markets “will offer much-needed relief and opportunity for New York’s cultivators and allow small brands to connect with and educate more consumers on their products. It is encouraging to see this important initiative prioritized, as it will play a key role in creating a more proficient and functional market for operators all along the supply chain,” CANY said.

But some farmers were skeptical during the meeting that farmers markets will solve all their issues, or be able to be stood up fast enough to alleviate their financial worries.

“It’s a great concept, and I think it will work, and it will gain some traction, but logistically, boots on the ground, I don’t think these are going to come to fruition … quick enough,” said farmer Scott Trifilo during the Thursday town hall.

Trifilo asked instead if there was a way the OCM could grant farmers immediate authority to conduct retail themselves as micro businesses since that’s a transition that will be allowed in the future when businesses transfer from conditional licenses to annual permits. But the answer was no.

Fagon also told farmers that they can rest assured that they and processors will keep their current albeit temporary ability to ship their cannabis, which is set to expire on June 1 and could bring the state’s marijuana supply chain to a halt if the deadline isn’t extended.

Fagon said that Assembly Bill A7430 is expected to be passed before the end of the month by state lawmakers, which will solve the issue.

“It’s a must-pass bill. It’s going to be passed. That’s what’s been communicated,” Fagon said. “It is a precondition, actually, to have a functional supply chain in New York. The legislature understands that. We’ve been assured that it’s a must-pass bill, and the farmers need it, and our supply chain stops without it.”

The measure, sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, would push the temporary distributor license expirations for farmers and processors back a full year to June 1, 2024.

John Schroyer

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