New York’s Hemp Industry in Limbo as New Regulatory Specifics Idle on Governor Cuomo’s Desk

When many people think of New York, scenes of Times Square and bustling streets may come to mind. However, New York state is more than New York City. In fact, the majority of the state’s economy outside of its infamous city is largely based on agriculture. Any many farmers have begun taking an interest in hemp since it became legalized.

In 2019, New York’s State Senate along with Governor Andrew Cuomo passed S6184A, a crucial bill effectively legalizing hemp extracts in the state. The bill lays out a much-needed regulatory framework on the production, processing, and commercialization of hemp extract products, such as tinctures, salves, and lotions.

Although the bill was considered a true watershed moment for stakeholders in New York’s budding hemp industry, a new challenge has arisen. Over 700 hemp producers across the state are now preparing to harvest thousands of pounds worth of hemp, which will then be sent to over 100 processing facilities across New York.

Unfortunately, New York hemp producers are operating under a temporary set of regulations and licenses granted by the state, which are set to expire at the end of October, right at the beginning of the harvesting season, effectively jeopardizing the entirety of New York’s hemp crop for 2020.

We spoke with Kaelan Castetter, vice-president of the New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association (NYCGPA) and CEO of the Castetter Cannabis Group, about the status of the new regulations and what it could mean for hemp in New York.

“[Stakeholders] across New York’s hemp industry desperately need new licensing and regulatory guidelines,” Castetter said.

Castetter and other members of the NYCGPA have been working tirelessly to pressure the governor to release them but to no avail: “Nobody knows why the new regulations are sitting on Cuomo’s desk, but it is important that he release them as soon as possible.”

While Castetter could not confirm, it is likely due to the impact of COVID-19, which struck New York heavily earlier this spring, when it was the hotspot of cases in the country. However, revenue from hemp could help the economy, a state like many others now facing a serious crisis.

“Hemp won’t solve all of New York’s issues, but it could generate sizeable economic revenue for the state and create tons of opportunities for communities across the state,” noted Castetter.

A farmer himself, Castetter was quick to point out that New York has a strong agricultural pedigree, making hemp an ideal fit for the state’s agricultural sector.

“Whenever we talk about agriculture, most people think of states like Washington as primary growers for most of the produce we get today,” he said. “[But] New York has just as deep of an agricultural history. We are the second-largest producer of apples in the country.”

Indeed, New York is on the cusp of an agricultural revolution with hemp. A robust hemp industry has the opportunity to offer economic opportunity to multiple stakeholders within the industry, which has largely struggled due to price gluts for traditional crops.

“I know tons of people working in this industry from farmers to processors to CEOs of cannabidiol companies who are ready [to drive the industry forward].” Apparently, the only obstacle facing this potential growth is Governor Cuomo and the clock is ticking.

Will he come through before the final hour, which is rapidly approaching?

“We certainly hope so,” Castetter opined.

Image Credit: Michael Louie

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