Farmers across the state have grown a sufficient amount of cannabis to stock New York's first dispensaries with homegrown flower before they open by year's end, Office of Cannabis Management officials said Friday.
The state's first supply of legally grown cannabis is almost ready for harvest as President Joe Biden asks for a review of how marijuana is viewed under federal drug laws.
"We know now, having toured the state, that the crop will be ready, that it will be high-quality, that it will be sun-grown," Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander said Friday. "And before the end of the year, we'll have some of our dispensaries open."
Office of Cannabis Management and Cannabis Control Board members would not give further details about when the state's first dispensaries will open, and where or when the office will announce an updated timeline. But they reiterated the first adult-use marijuana sales will happen before 2023. Gov. Kathy Hochul this week also said the timeline remains on track, with about 20 dispensaries coming online per month after the initial launch.
The state Dormitory Authority continues to visit locations and negotiate with landlords about potential retail space, Alexander said.
"We can't be more specific than that," he said. "It will be in a rolling wave, though. We'll have them keep coming online as they continue to be secured and built out."
Members of the board of the new Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board toured farms in Rochester, Long Island and the Capital Region this week, touching and smelling dozens of strains to be among the first adult-use marijuana sales. The week-long visits concluded at a small farm in Copake on Friday.
Couple Jasmine Burems and King Aswad are preparing to harvest about 350 plants of 13 strains of cannabis from their Columbia County farm in the coming weeks.
"We like the No. 13 — there's 13 moons in the year," said Burems, who added of the coming harvest: "But we're not quite there yet. You can't rush a flower in its blossoming."
They own Claudine Field Apothecary, and grow their flower with organic and biodynamic farming techniques. Their products are focused on medical wellness, and will include pre-rolls, vapes and edibles. Most will be sold to dispensaries.
Burems and Aswad, a community herbalist and yoga instructor from Brooklyn, moved to Copake to start their farm and infuse wellness practices into the land.
The first dispensaries slated to open in New York will be owned and operated by people with prior marijuana convictions, who are disproportionately people of color.
Biden on Thursday announced all federal marijuana possession charges would be pardoned. OCM and advocates say it's a critical response after communities of color were most impacted by criminal charges and incarceration during marijuana prohibition.
Farmers, entrepreneurs or processors with a cannabis-related conviction or a direct relative of someone with a cannabis-related conviction in New York, or those with experience owning and operating a successful business in the state, were prioritized first to apply for licenses this year. The qualifications were outlined under the state's Seeding Opportunity Initiative Gov. Kathy Hochul announced in March.
"That is exactly the key and the tools that we here at OCM are able to use so that we can get seeds in the ground and products ready for our dispensaries that are about to go online later this year," Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright said.
Burems and Aswad lead nonprofit Institute of Afrofuturist Ecology which works to build equity into the emerging legal cannabis industry for coming generations, and bring a plant grown in secret for so long into the sunshine.
"It feels like a privilege to be able to rest at night, not feeling like someone is going to try to tear my family apart because I'm trying to feed my family," Aswad said.
Officials say they hope the state will be a leader as the decriminalization of marijuana grows into a national conversation, adding it's part of a budding dialogue to erase a long-held stigma.
"Let's grow together... Let's grow together in New York," Aswad said.
A representative with Gov. Kathy Hochul's office said today the White House has not contacted the governor's office about the state's experience with expunging marijuana convictions in preparation to pardon federal records.