Cannabis Crop: East End Farmers Among First NY Recreational Pot Grower Licensees

Two North Fork agricultural companies are among three on Long Island and 52 across New York State to be dealt the first-ever licenses allowing the trailblazers to grow newly legalized recreational marijuana.

The local trio of potential pot planters stirring area buzz are Riverhead-based Plant Connection, East End Flower Farm — which has fields in Orient, Mattituck, East Moriches and Holtsville — and Route 27 Hopyard, an outfit out of Center Moriches. All three rolled through the first round of state Cannabis Control Board (CCB) approvals, but still need to hash out the details before they can hit the fields.

“I’m very happy that the state decided to reward people that did take a hit,” Marcos Ribeiro of East End Flower Farm, said of his prior experience growing hemp, a cannabis plant that has far less of the psychoactive element THC than marijuana. “The 2018 farm bill legalized hemp, so everybody and their mom grew it and the market came crashing down … there was way too much oversupply.”

The Empire State last year legalized consumption, possession, sale and cultivation of cannabis for adults over the age of 21. Most towns and villages on Long Island nipped reefer reform in the bud by passing legislation opting out of allowing pot shops and cannabis cafés within their borders, except for the towns of Riverhead, Southampton, Brookhaven and Babylon. But the retail opt-out laws don’t blunt state-approved agronomists’ ability to grow a wholesale stash to supply weed retailers elsewhere.

“Marijuana is considered a bona fide agricultural product in New York and towns have no authority to regulate or ban growing,” Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said. “That rests solely with (the state).”

The state has would-be ganja growers who paid the $2,000 application fee zig-zagging through a heady stack of paperwork. The farmers — all of whom met the prerequisite of previously growing hemp — have 30 days to submit plans, ensure 24-hour security, undergo inspections, and show financing, among other formalities. Even if the plans don’t go up in smoke, the farmers will only be allowed to grow an acre of weed to start and won’t be allowed to also get into the retail market — so no pot farm stands, for now. “We’ve been working hard to establish this industry, and now, New York farmers will be able to plant seeds in our fertile ground,” CCB Chair Tremaine Wright said after awarding the conditional cultivator licenses at the board’s April 14 meeting. “Growing season waits for no one, and we’re moving as quickly as possible to help our local farmers take full advantage of it this spring.”

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