Fifty-two hemp farmers will get the first crack at supplying New York’s forthcoming adult-use cannabis market.

The state’s Cannabis Control Board members unanimously approved 50 conditional adult-use cannabis cultivation licenses for existing hemp farmers, and separately approved two more after member Adam Perry recused himself, during their regulatory meeting April 14.

The resolution to approve the issuance of those licenses came nearly two months after Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation to allow hemp businesses to grow cannabis to help jumpstart the adult-use market and ensure there’s adequate supply when commercial sales possibly launch later this year.

“New York’s farms have been the backbone of our state’s economy since before the American Revolution, and now, New York’s farms will be at the center of the most equitable cannabis industry in the nation,” Gov. Hochul said in a press release announcing the approved licenses. 

She added: “I’m proud to announce the first adult-use cannabis cultivation licenses in the state, and I’m proud of the work the Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board are doing to get adult-use cannabis sales up and running as fast as possible without compromising our mission to uplift communities and individuals most impacted by the past century of cannabis prohibition.”

The first batch of licenses will be issued to hemp businesses in 25 of New York’s 62 counties, including six in Dutchess County, and four each in Schoharie and Washington counties.

The approved licenses came from a pool of more than 150 applications submitted to the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) following the March 15 opening of a web-based portal. Applicants seeking the conditional licenses must have grown and harvested hemp during at least two of the past four seasons.

Applications not yet approved remain in the review process.

“This is an exciting moment,” OCM Director Chris Alexander said during the April 14 meeting. “I will be awarding the first adult-use cannabis licenses in the state of New York to small farmers.”

Alexander added: “These [52 approved] applications represent the first batch. We’re going to continue to process applications on a rolling basis and working to get them to the board for approval as quickly as possible.”

The 2022 growing season is fast approaching in New York. Some of the new licensees could harvest their first cannabis crops as soon as September or October.

Hemp businesses that receive the conditional licenses can begin growing cannabis outdoors or in a greenhouse with up to 20 artificial lights, according to OCM.

After the CCB vote, board member Jen Metzger said, “If I could also just add how thrilled I am that we are starting out of the gate with sun-grown cannabis on New York farms.”

The application window for the conditional license program closes June 30, 2022.

While New York’s adult-use cannabis program has been a work in progress since former Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) into law March 31, 2021, CCB Chair Tremaine Wright said last week that approving the provisional cultivation licenses marked a huge step toward establishing a regulated industry.

“We’ve been working hard to establish this industry, and now, New York farmers will be able to plant seeds in our fertile ground, so dispensaries owned by justice-involved New Yorkers with business experience will be able to sell these products in stores by the end of the year,” she said. “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.”