New York Gives Its Hemp Farmers a Boost

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New York’s hemp market got a huge boost on Wednesday from state regulators. 

The New York State Departments of Health and Agriculture and Markets announced that the state’s medical cannabis license holders will be able to use hemp and hemp extracts produced under the state’s Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot Program to “produce cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabinoids for approved medical marijuana products.” The proposed regulation was published in the State Register on Wednesday.

What this means, in practice, is that New York’s hemp industry can get its products, via licensed medical cannabis companies, into the hands of the state’s 109,583 certified patients. 

Since the state’s hemp program was established in 2015, the state has “taken several actions to help the hemp industry grow in New York,” according to the announcement, including the creation of a research program that aims to “support economic development opportunities for hemp businesses.” The state also lifted a cap on how many entities could cultivate and research hemp. 

“This new regulation will provide our research partners with another market for their products. We support the continued growth of this emerging industry, which has opened the door to new opportunities in New York’s agricultural industry, as well as many other sectors,” New York Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball said in a statement. 

Vireo Health is both a Registered Operator, or medical cannabis license holder in New York, and a hemp license holder. Ari Hoffnung, Chief Executive Officer of Vireo Health of New York, told Cannabis Wire that the company is “very excited about this regulatory proposal.” 

“It’s a great day for patients,” Hoffnung said. “This proposal has the potential of making medical marijuana products more affordable for patients. And basically, the ability to utilize CBD extracts derived from industrial hemp in our medical marijuana products will help us reduce the manufacturing costs of making medical marijuana products. And that would provide us with the opportunity to pass those savings along to customers.”

The state Department of Ag estimates that its research partners are now permitted to cultivate almost 20,000 acres of hemp “for use in grain, fiber and CBD products.” 

State lawmakers courted Canadian company Canopy Growth, one of the world’s largest and highest valued cannabis companies, and convinced Canopy to set up its US hemp headquarters in upstate New York. Canopy is also in the process of acquiring Acreage Holdings, a multistate operator that also holds one of ten medical cannabis licenses in New York, which means that Acreage can now source its hemp-derived cannabinoids from Canopy, should the company choose to do so. 

Cannabis Wire reported from Broome County on the late July day that Canopy Growth unveiled their “hemp industrial park,” where New York Senator Chuck Schumer emphasized the economic engine that hemp could be for the state’s farmers. 

“Today is a turning point day for the Southern Tier,” Schumer said. “Not only are we celebrating a job-creating, economy-jolting investment in Broome County, but we’re celebrating the commencement of work on New York’s very first hemp industrial park. 

“The Southern Tier is well on its way to becoming the Silicon Valley of industrial hemp,” Schumer said. 

New York State Assemblymember Donna Lupardo, who was instrumental in passing New York’s hemp legalization bill in 2014, told Cannabis Wire, “Hemp extract farmers will now have an expanded marketplace with an additional customer base,” adding that she has “always wanted to see a more integrated cannabis marketplace for our hemp farmers. Destroying perfectly good plants that test too high in THC made no sense when we have medical program that could use them.”

State Sen. Liz Krueger, a longtime champion of cannabis law reform in New York, told Cannabis Wire, “Since we now allow both medical cannabis use and hemp growing in New York State, it makes sense to allow those two things to be combined, as long as the product is safe.  Research is showing real promise from combining cannabis and hemp products. More options will only improve access and outcomes for medical cannabis patients, and expanding markets is good for New York farmers.”  

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