New York's cannabis market is set to make a major leap with state lawmakers granting final approval on Wednesday to a bill that would authorize adult-use licenses for the cultivation and processing of cannabis in the state by hemp growers.

The measure, approved this week in the state Senate and Assembly, will soon go to Gov. Kathy Hochul's desk for her consideration. 

The bill is meant to add a regulatory framework process for the licensing of growing marijuana in New York following the passage last year of the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act. 

"With the passage of this bill, we have the opportunity to create a responsible start to the adult-use cannabis industry by authorizing temporary conditional cultivator and processor licenses to current New York hemp farmers," said Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes. "This authority will help secure enough safe, regulated, and environmentally conscious cannabis products to meet the demand of the adult-use cannabis market when retail dispensaries open."

Applicants who are eligible for licences would need to have possessed valid industrial hemp grower authorizaiton from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets as of Dec. 31, 2021. The growers would need to have grown and harvested hemp for at least two of the last four years. 

The licenses as outlined by the bill would allow for growing cannabis outdoors or in greenhouses with up to 20 artificial lights. License holders would be permitted to manufacture and distribute cannabis products. 

Starting June 1, 2023, cultivators and processors would be required to apply for a distributor license. And the bill is meant to ensure the cannabis program will have a robust social equity mentorship program as well as an environmental sustainability program. 

State lawmakers have wanted to ensure minority and women-owned businesses would be able to compete in the cannabis market, which is expected to generate billions of dollars in revenue in the coming years. 

“These temporary licenses are the next step in getting our state’s market up and running," Speaker Carl Heastie said. “Allowing already licensed hemp growers to obtain temporary conditional licenses will not only get New York on track, but it will require they help others – especially MWBEs and others who are frequently left behind in this industry – get a foot in the door and be successful.”