Local growers were awarded the first licenses. And they bet the farm on legal weed. But now they have half a billion dollars worth of marijuana, ready to sell, without any buyers.
The first harvest for the state’s pot pioneers came with high expectations. But now, excitement has turned to fear for the 200-plus licensed cannabis growers in New York.
Tons And Time
“It’s terrifying, because we just don’t know,” said Colin Brogan, who also works for Hudson River Farms in Dutchess County.
Stuck inside a secure storage room for weeks now is almost 2,000 pounds of fragrant weed. And that’s at just this one farm alone. But there’s just no place to sell it.
“Until we have that final piece of the supply chain, the dispensaries that can actually sell to a consumer, everybody’s kind of in the same boat, and we’re just sitting around, waiting to sell it to somebody,” said Hudson River Farms’ Alex Keenan.
Just waiting, as there is hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weed across the state — all of which could potentially lose value if they can’t keep it fresh.
State Claims Retail Shops Will Be Open By End Of 2022
When asked when they need answers from New York’s Office of Cannabis Management, Keenan said “we’d love some answers now quite frankly.”
The state only approved the first 36 dispensary licenses in late November. However, they continue to assure growers that retail shops will be up and running by the end of 2022.
“Personally, I think that’s probably a stretch, but I hope so,” said Keenan.
“To me that could mean one store open before the end of the year,” McGrath said. “Not enough for us because we’re one of 200 some farms producing this thing.”
Forget About Interstate Sales
When asked about the farm’s concerns, the Office of Cannabis Management said the timeline remains the same. The office added that they are “incredibly proud of our local family farmers, and excited for New Yorkers to begin sampling this tested, sun-grown cannabis.”
Hudson River Farms said they can survive until about March, before being forced to invest in long-term storage options. They can’t even sell it to neighboring New Jersey or Massachusetts because of federal law.
“Because it’s federally illegal, so can’t do anything interstate. Can’t cross state lines with it,” said McGrath.
Stuck In A Holding Pattern
Licensed New York growers are stuck in this holding pattern. But illegal sales have taken flight. Unlicensed smoke shops continue to sprout up all over the state.
“The illegal market is definitely a concern for us, because it’s more competition,” McGrath told NBC New York. “Here we are following all the rules, laws, regulations, following through testing. You don’t know what you’re getting at a bodega.”
Keenan said there could be challenging for all cannabis farms in the state if they aren’t able to start selling weed by the time they plant next spring.
“By the time we put our next plants in, by May — if we’re still sitting on what we have here, we’ve got a massive problem,” he said. “And it’s not just us, it’s all the farms.”