A Schoharie County farm was one of three farms selected to highlight the progress of New York cannabis farmers in the state’s new Seeding Opportunity Initiative, which will officially launch at the end of this year.
New York’s Office of Cannabis Management and members of the Cannabis Control Board led a tour of three family farms across the state Thursday and Friday in an effort to not only learn about what the farmers are doing, but also to show off their work in jumpstarting the state’s cannabis industry.
“This was a years in the making — for some people, decades in the making — fight to first decriminalize cannabis and then legalize cannabis and there’s just something so beautiful and so cool about these plants in the ground growing, being grown by New York family farmers,” said Aaron Ghitelman, the OCM’s deputy communications director. “We are on the precipice of this future that so many have worked so hard for so let’s show it off.”
The farms, located in Erie, Schoharie and Ulster counties, are some of New York’s first to be cultivating adult-use cannabis crops for the new Seeding Opportunity Initiative. The program not only licenses local hemp farmers to grow cannabis, but will also arrange for individuals with a cannabis-related conviction — or their close family members — and entrepreneurial experience to own their own cannabis dispensaries, called Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries.
“This roll out of the Seeding Opportunity Initiative is empowering our existing hemp farmers as well as other entrepreneurs throughout our state,” said Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright in her remarks. “We’re super excited that we are able to be a part of lifting up the cannabis industry in New York State.”
The Seeding Opportunity Initiative was introduced this past March, and it has since approved 223 cultivators to grow cannabis to sell at the program’s future dispensaries.
Along with its typical organic roots, herbs, and shrubs, the Schoharie County farm cultivates over 5,000 cannabis crops of different types, including a Quick strain that grows faster than the standard cannabis crop, and three kinds of the autoflowering cannabis variety, which grow based on age rather than exposure to light.
The farmer of the property, who wished to remain anonymous for security purposes, has been excited to join the state’s program since its beginning.
“It’s great for people to see the different levels of what can happen in New York State,” said the farmer. “In a lot of states, it’s really big mega-farms all over and big corporate business that can get into the industry so to see little places like this is important.”
Recreational marijuana became legalized in New York in March 2021 when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act. When current Gov. Kathy Hochul took office, she established the Office of Cannabis Management. Both actions set the framework for an industry that Ghitelman says is to be the first-of-its-kind in the nation.
“New York is doing this in a way no other state has even tried,” said Ghitelman.
The OCM and Cannabis Control Board expects that the first stores will open before the end of the year.
“Everything that we see growing here will have a place on the shelves coming this fall when we open the doors to our first dispensaries and really kick off the sales of adult-use cannabis in our state,” said Wright.
The office and board are optimistic about the future of the state’s cannabis industry and praise the role that small farmers have played thus far in its success.
“We have a big mission ahead of us to do something that has not yet been done — this has not yet been done — to start a market, to start a state market that will be the biggest industry in the country,” said Chris Alexander, the executive director of the OCM. “To start this market with our small farmers, I think, was an important step and we are so thankful that you are proving us right.”