New York's First Legal Weed Plants Have Sprouted

New York's First Legal Weed Plants Have Sprouted

Justine Fisher

Big steps were just made in New York’s budding marijuana industry. Since weed got a green light from the state last year, the first legal marijuana plant sprouted on selected farms which means New York dispensaries could be rolling out recreational marijuana this year.

The state made the unconventional decision to commission 203 hemp farmers to grow the first plants, rather than larger growers. The initial plants should generate a few hundred thousand pounds of product, and as this is just a fraction of projected demand, cultivation is expected to expand alongside dispensaries, according to AP News. Though legal marijuana distribution has been delayed since New York became the 15th state to legalize cannabis on March 31, 2021, the success of the plants is a good sign for a fall harvest and retail by the end of the year.

While other states, like New Jersey, kick-started legal sales with farmers in the medical marijuana industry, hemp growers lead the way in New York. Unlike hemp, which is cannabis with at most .3% THC content, the farmers will now produce marijuana that is the same species of cannabis but has more than .3% THC content. With a license to distribute to retailers that lasts two years, farmers are expecting to harvest in October since many planted in May or June. The New York farmers are limited to just one acre of flowering canopy outdoors and less than double that for a greenhouse.

Along with giving licenses to smaller growers, the first retail permits in New York will go to sellers with prior convictions in efforts to meet the mandate of promoting a diverse marijuana industry, both economically and demographically. The 2021 legalization came after data from the New York City Police Department revealed that New Yorkers of color were victims to 94% of arrests for marijuana-related offenses in 2020.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul released a statement back in March of this year, referencing a policy to give people who suffered under marijuana’s prohibition a head start in the legal market. The statement said, "The regulations advanced by the Cannabis Control Board today will prioritize local farmers and entrepreneurs, creating jobs and opportunity for communities that have been left out and left behind."

Still, in what will likely be, next to California, the second-largest legal marijuana market, larger producers are expected to join the rotation. As New York plans for more regulations this summer, established companies are preparing for more licenses to be offered early next year. Green Thumb Industries is expanding to New York city with a new growing and manufacturing site that should be up and running next year. The company already sells medical marijuana in New York, as well as in 15 other states.

Farmers, sellers and consumers alike are in anxious anticipation of New York’s first marijuana plant harvest (hopefully in time for 4/20), which will set off the state’s potentially $4.2 billion industry, according to Forbes. To put it bluntly, the projections for the future of the legal marijuana industry in New York are extremely high.

Photo via Getty/ Kevin Cummins