Sen. Cooney introduces bill to expedite marijuana farming in New York state

State Legislature

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — New York State Sen. Jeremy Cooney (D-56) introduced a bill that would establish an adult-use cultivator provisional license for cannabis growers and help expedite the growing process.

Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law that made adult-use recreational marijuana legal in new York state.

A part of that legalized marijuana law meant the establishment of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management. Sen. Cooney’s bill would allow farmers to plant, harvest, and sell cannabis to retailers throughout the state until that office was fully operational.

“This legislation enables New York cannabis farmers to put seeds in the ground, so that the economic benefits of legalizing marijuana are not delayed for another growing season,” Sen. Cooney said in a Tuesday press release. “We passed adult-use recreational marijuana with the promise of investing in communities most negatively impacted by the failed War on Drugs. This bill allows us to start fulfilling that promise by creating a supply chain of products for retailers in this new economy.”

Sen. Cooney says the bill sets up the provisional infrastructure to enable cannabis growers to begin planting seeds during the next growing season, so that the 2022 season’s economic benefits are not delayed.

“This legislation allows us to do that by getting seeds in the ground. We know our farmers are ready to get to work,” says Sen. Cooney.

The crops can take up to six months to mature. Cooney says the bill ensures next year, the crops will be ready for distribution. 

“I’m committed to ensuring we don’t miss yet another growing season and to make sure that our farmers can get seeds in the ground,” he says.

Cooney says this will help get farmers and sellers ahead of the game, but some are saying the sooner the better. 

Jeremy Jiminez with Honest Pharm Co. in Newark says manufacturers, like them, need to start growing now, so dispensaries can be ready to start selling.

“When the industry gets there, and it’s ready to go and licenses are available, we’re able to just flip the switch and we’re ready to fly with this,” says Jiminez.

Jiminez and his crew say they could be ready to grow now, but keep in mind, growing is just half the battle. 
“We have to process it, weigh it, we have to send it off for lab results,” he says.

Jiminez, who employs some 40 people during peak season, says if they can start in the direction Senator Cooney wants to go, that means more jobs. 

“We want to give back to the community. So, I’m looking forward to it keep giving back,” he says.

Creating a system to get marijuana sales up and running statewide will take some time, but here’s what you can do as of now since the law passed:

Use

People 21 and older can use, smoke, ingest or otherwise consume marijuana and other related products.

It’s still illegal to drive a vehicle under the influence of marijuana.

Possession

New York has eliminated penalties for possession of less than three ounces of cannabis for those 21 and older, with a greater quantity allowed to be stored at home in a secured place. The bill also automatically expunged records of people with past convictions for marijuana-related offenses that would no longer be criminalized (court offices have up to two years to make sure this process is completed). That’s a step beyond a 2019 law that expunged many past convictions for marijuana possession and reduced the penalty for possessing small amounts.

The legislation took effect immediately upon the bill’s signing, though sales will not start immediately.

Sales

Legal buying and selling of recreational marijuana will take a while as New York sets up rules and a proposed cannabis board. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes estimated Friday it could take 18 months to two years for sales to start.

The governor’s office will begin setting up a brand new agency called the Office of Cannabis Management. The agency will establish guidelines and issue licenses for marijuana farming, processing, distribution, dispensaries and even retail consumption sites.

Penalties still apply for people selling illegally, without a license. You can give cannabis products to others who meet the legal requirements, though.

You can’t use marijuana products at dispensaries, except for designated consumption sites (think cigar lounge).

Home growing

Patients looking to grow medical marijuana at home can do so six months after the bill is enacted.

Those planning to grow recreational marijuana can do so 18 months after the opening of the first dispensary, so as to allow the commercial sale of cannabis products to get set up.

New Yorkers can grow up to six plants at home and up to 12 plants per household.

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