Six months after the marijuana law take effect is when medical users can begin growing, but recreational users will have to wait 18 months to plant. The first outdoor marijuana cultivators are now licensed to grow pot in New York, though…
Marijuana legal but home growing still months away
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) —While the state’s new marijuana laws does allow for home cultivation of the plant, home cultivation is not legal just yet because the state is still creating growing regulation and experts say it could take years before seeds can be planted.
With the news of marijuana legalization in New York state, interested growers have been coming to places like Sunset Hydroponics & Home Brewing to find out more about planting marijuana.
“Definitely expect to see quite an influx. I’ve actually had a lot of people coming in just asking questions and just browsing around,” Noel Batterson, Store Manager, Sunset Hydroponics & Home Brewing, said.
One reason they might not be buying growing supplies right now is because you can’t plant marijuana just yet. This is because the state is still hammering out specific regulations for home-growing, something lawmakers and activists like Steve VanDeWalle with Tiva Naturals say could take months.
“The earliest I think That could be and this is being very optimistic is January of 2022, right, cause right now that the bill been passed, it goes into the rule making process where you work out all the technical jargons of the bill,” Steve VanDeWalle, founder CEO Tiva Naturals, said.
Six months after those rules take effect is when medical users can begin growing, but recreational users will have to wait 18 months to plant.
“The bill is very ambiguous and that could very well be clarified in the rule making process but in this moment in time I do not advise anybody to start cultivating cannabis at home until we have a little more clarification around the bill,” VanDeWalle said.
Once the laws are set, people can grow up to six plants per person or up to 12 per household.
It takes the same gear that Hydroponics business already sell, and Batterson expects more interested growers to come in this summer with questions.
“You can use a lot of the same nutrients honestly for like when your growing vegetables and fruits even flowers a lot of the same process,” Batterson said. “I do expect it be busy we are hiring a few extra people on just to make sure we have enough coverage.”
State lawmakers have said it could take up to a year or longer to set up the systems and regulations that would allow for home marijuana cultivation.
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Homegrown cannabis still banned, though some farmers now licensed
Regulatory delays mean that individuals who wish to grow their own pot outdoors in New York, including those who use it for authorized medicinal purposes, could be jeopardized for a second growing season. The law legalizing marijuana was passed in March 2021. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
David McNew/Getty Images
ALBANY — The first outdoor marijuana cultivators are now licensed to grow pot in New York, though planting cannabis is still off-limits for medical prescription cardholders who hope to cultivate their own supplies of the drug.
Regulators granted 52 initial cultivation licenses at a Cannabis Control Board meeting on Thursday, allowing recipients — all hemp farmers — to grow a limited amount of cannabis that will provide product for the state’s first legal, non-medical sales. The two-year conditional status allows those license holders to plant one acre of flowering canopy outdoors, or 25,000 square feet in a greenhouse.
But the rules that will eventually allow every medical cannabis prescription holder to grow up to six plants at home are still pending: at Thursday’s meeting, officials said recent changes to the draft regulations clarify that patients can grow plants outdoors on their property, among other updates. The latest revisions will trigger a new 45-day public comment period that will not begin until May 4, nearly four months after the first comment period ended in January.
The continued delays mean that individuals who wish to legally grow their own pot supplies outdoors, including those who use it for medicinal purposes, could be jeopardized for a second growing season. The law legalizing marijuana was passed in March 2021.
“To be clear, home cultivation of medical cannabis is not yet permitted, and will not be permitted until the comments . are assessed and the board can adopt the revisions and then have them published in the state register,” said Nicole Quackenbush, the cannabis office’s director of health and safety.
But for many of New York’s medical cannabis patients, there has been confusion about the ability of someone to legally grow their own supply of marijuana. Lawmakers had intended for that to begin last year for medical prescription cardholders.
“I think almost every New Yorker I’ve talked to thinks that it’s totally legal to grow right now,” said Joel Hubert, a Capital Region resident who has taught himself a lot about the medicinal plant. “I tell them you’re absolutely wrong. (But) there’s been an explosion just because of the fact that it’s semi-legal.”
Hubert, who is almost 70 years old, suffers chronic pain and has an allergy to all opioid-based medications. For him, the state’s medical cannabis program has been a life-changer: when his doctor first suggested combating his pain with a cannabis tincture, he slept through the night for the first time in 10 years. Since then, he has become invested in the plant; but its cost from medical suppliers is prohibitive.
“I’m on a retirement check,” Hubert said, noting that he will be cultivating his own, and is hoping the rules are finalized soon.
Patients’ right to grow cannabis at home was included in the New York bill that legalized the possession and use of cannabis for adults. The law specified that regulators should issue rules for patients who want to grow at home within six months of the bill’s passage, no later than the end of September. But after a regulatory board was slow to be appointed and missed that deadline, public comment periods and months of revisions have extended that target for more than a year.
Until recently, New York hemp farmers hoping to be among the first outdoor cultivators for the adult-use cannabis market were concerned their time would also slip away, causing them to miss New York’s narrow growing season this year. But a bill mandating conditional cultivation licenses that passed quickly through the legislature in February gave them another shot at their hoped-for timeline.
“We understand that the growing season waits for no one,” said Chris Alexander, executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management, while announcing the first 52 license recipients on Thursday. “We have to move quickly to help our farmers take full advantage of it.”
Alexander said his team would continue to process applications on a rolling basis, working to get them in front of the board for approval as soon as possible.
“We went from waiting and waiting, and now we’re in this outright sprint,” said John Ng, one of the applicants whose cultivation proposal was among those approved. “Most cultivators will be planting in June, they’ll be harvesting in October, and hoping they’ll have a place to sell it come November.”
Ng added they have a lot of work to do ahead of time, including buying seeds and making infrastructure improvements. Generally, outdoor marijuana in the Northeast must be planted no later than mid-June to produce a viable crop.
According to Kaelan Castetter, vice president of the state’s Cannabis Growers and Processors Association whose group works with many hemp farmers hoping to transition into adult-use cannabis, some farmers who are not yet licensed to start planting may struggle to catch up.
“What surprised me is that half of (the hemp farmers who applied) didn’t get approved. So does that mean they got denied? Or does that mean they’re looking for more information?” Castetter said, noting that a later approval date would be “cutting it close — you definitely want to have propagation started in early May.”
Cannabis cultivation using natural light responds to the changing seasons, with outdoor plants in New York typically starting to flower in late August for harvest in September and October.
Rebekah F. Ward can be reached at [email protected] and 315-939-0938. Habla español y elle parle français. She joined the Times Union in 2021 as an investigative reporter and is the newsroom’s first Joseph T. Lyons fellow. Her previous coverage spanned New York, but she also reported from Colombia, Mexico and Canada for outlets including Reuters, France 24 and the OCCRP. Ward has a background in Peace & Conflict Studies and Psychology (Colgate University, ’13), past work in international development media and a master’s focused on migration reporting and international/financial investigations (Columbia Journalism School, ’19).