marijuana legalization

NY Marijuana Growers Are Sitting on Literal Tons of Legal Weed Due to Delayed Rollout

Excitement about the budding business has turned to fear for the 200-plus licensed cannabis growers in New York

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Recreational marijuana dispensaries are already doing big business in New Jersey, and nine are scheduled to open in Connecticut in January 2023.

But in New York, a date hasn't been announced yet — a slow rollout that is creating a cannabis conundrum. Local growers who were awarded the first licenses bet the farm on legal weed. But now they have half a billion dollars worth of cannabis ready to sell, without any buyers.

The first harvest for the state's pot pioneers came with high expectations.

"We're like when prohibition started — like starting a Budweiser factory or beer factory or something like that,” said Ryan McGrath, of Hudson River Farms.

But lately, excitement about the budding business has turned to fear for the 200-plus licensed cannabis growers in New York, like McGrath's farm in Dutchess County.

"It's terrifying, because we just don't know," said Colin Brogan, who also works for the farm.

Stuck inside a secure storage room for weeks now is almost 2,000 pounds of cannabis — at just this one farm alone. But there's nowhere 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.

The city is once again cracking down on illegal weed trucks across Manhattan for where they're parking. Gus Rosendale reports.

When asked when they would need answers from the state'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 the year, aka in about two weeks.

"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," a less-than-optimistic McGrath said. "Not enough for us because we're one of 200 some farms producing this thing."

When asked about the farm's concerns, the Office of Cannabis Management said the timeline remains the same and that they are "incredibly proud of our local family farmers, and excited for New Yorkers to begin sampling this tested, sun-grown cannabis."

So what happens to all that weed and what does the farm do in the meantime?

"Gonna do a lot of R&D," Brogan said with a laugh.

NY’s cannabis regulator says storefronts already accepting payment for marijuana are jumping the gun, but plenty of businesses are doing it. How do they get away with it? Chris Glorioso found weed entrepreneurs daring New York to shut them down, because they believe the licensing process is rigged to favor big business.

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.

While licensed growers are stuck in this holding pattern, 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 a "massive problem" for all cannabis farms in the state if they aren't able to start selling weed by the time they're getting ready to plant next year's crop in the 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."

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