ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a conditional cannabis cultivation bill Tuesday that will allow some New York hemp farmers to grow cannabis beginning this spring.

According to the governor’s office, the conditional licenses will fast-track the state’s adult-use cannabis program while also helping New York farmers.

State officials say leading with these cultivation licenses will help ensure that produces are available to launch for the forthcoming adult-use program. According to the governor, provisions in the bill are included to ensure equity, inclusion, and environmental sustainability.

“I am proud to sign this bill, which positions New York’s farmers to be the first to grow cannabis and jumpstart the safe, equitable and inclusive new industry we are building,” Gov. Hochul said. “New York State will continue to lead the way in delivering on our commitment to bring economic opportunity and growth to every New Yorker in every corner of our great state.”   

According to the governor’s office, with a conditional adult-use cannabis cultivation license, farmers can grow outdoors or in a greenhouse for up to two years from the issuance of the license. It also allows them to manufacture and distribute cannabis flower products without holding an adult-use processor or distributor license, until June 1, 2023.

State officials say cultivators are limited to one acre (43,560 square feet) of flowering canopy outdoors or 25,000 square feet in a greenhouse and can use up to 20 artificial lights. They can also split between outdoor and greenhouse grows with a maximum total canopy of 30,000 square feet as long as greenhouse flowering canopy remains under 20,000 square feet.   

The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) will be developing a license application process and opening the program as soon as possible, state officials say.

According to the OCM, to qualify for an Adult-Use Cannabis Conditional Cultivator License, an applicant must have been an authorized industrial hemp research partner for the Department of Agriculture and Markets for at least two of the past four years and in good standing as of December 31, 2021 — when the research program ended. 

Per a press release from Gov. Hochul’s office, holders of the license must also participate in a social equity mentorship program where they provide training in cannabis cultivation and processing for social and economic equity partners, preparing them for potential roles in the industry. Growers will also have to meet sustainability requirements to ensure the cannabis is grown in an environmentally conscientious way.   

Cannabis became legal in New York last year under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), but no adult-use recreational licenses have been issued yet.

Currently, the only way to acquire marijuana legally in New York is through a medicinal program, which recently expanded eligibility and has set up a new cannabis certification and registration system. The program will now allow a patient to get certified for medical marijuana by a practitioner for any condition they see fit.

Not only will more patients be allowed to be prescribed marijuana, but more practitioners including dentists, podiatrist, and midwives will be able to prescribe it.

The OCM also recently sent letters ordering businesses suspected of illegally selling cannabis, including the practice of “gifting” to stop or risk the opportunity to get a license in the legal market.

Some business operators have reportedly been selling a product or service providing cannabis as a “gift” in return. Officials say this is illegal and the OCM has identified more than two dozen alleged violators.

In addition to risk losing a potential license in the future legal market, officials from the OCM say businesses participating in the selling or gifting or marijuana illegally may also face substantial fines and possible criminal penalties.