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NY Gov. Vetoes Bill Letting Growers Sell Surplus Cannabis to Tribal Retailers

As the New York cannabis market continues to steadily find its footing among a number of delays, the state’s governor has vetoed a measure that would have provided solutions for growers with a surplus of product without means to sell it.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Michelle Hinchey (D) and Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D), would have allowed licensed growers to sell their products to tribal retailers. The sponsors, who respectively chair the state Senate and Assembly agriculture committees, shared that the veto by Gov. Kathy Hochul wasn’t a shocking move, despite the fact that the legislation was first approved back in June.

“We offered a way for some of the oversupply of cannabis grown by NY’s farmers to be sold to NY’s Tribal Nations,” Hinchey and Lupardo said in a statement. “Given the fact that this temporary measure would have expired on December 31st anyway, the veto is hardly a surprise.”

Broad Support Amongst New York Lawmakers

In September, lawmakers appealed to Hochul to emphasize the hundreds of farmers struggling to sell their crops because of the limited number of open dispensaries in the state. Sixty-six members of the legislature, about a third of New York’s state lawmakers, had sent a letter urging Hochul to sign the measure.

“Right now, there are over 200 cannabis farmers trying to sell their crops but only 23 dispensaries open statewide,” the bipartisan Senate and Assembly members wrote in September. “This has resulted in more than 250,000 pounds of unsold cannabis. Farmers who took out loans and leveraged all their assets to cultivate these crops are demoralized and facing financial disaster unless we act quickly to provide them with an alternate market.”

The legislation was formally transmitted to Gov. Hochul earlier in December, and she vetoed them on Friday, Marijuana Moment reports.

In their statement reacting to the veto, the sponsors also emphasized the pressing nature of this issue, saying that New York’s farmers “remain financially ruined by circumstances beyond their control,” adding that they will remain committed to helping these farmers and processors “that NY’s legal cannabis industry depends on in any way possible.”

A Long-Delayed Adult-Use Cannabis Market

It’s just one of many setbacks surrounding New York’s long standing effort to get the state’s recreational cannabis market up and moving. The Empire State first legalized adult-use cannabis in March 2021, but in the months since, the market’s full launch has been delayed by a slew of regulatory delays, legal issues and a hefty illicit market looking to fill the gap.

“Regulatory delays, lawsuits, and logistical and financing challenges have caused the state to miss its timelines and targets,” the September letter said. “However, cultivators are the group paying the steepest price.”

The market officially opened last December, and by the end of this year, New York is expected to have at least 37 adult-use dispensaries open for business.

While 2023 showed more progress than the years preceding it, lawmakers emphasized that growers are still suffering due to a surplus of products with nowhere to legally sell them. 

“New York’s cannabis farmers, who went out on a limb to help get the state’s legal market off the ground, should not be facing financial ruin because of regulatory delays,” the lawmakers said. “We should be giving them every possible opportunity to stay afloat while they await the development of the market they were promised.”

Largely, this year saw a number of lawsuits reach settlement, paving the way for more shops to open and for the trend to continue through 2024. Still, lawmakers in favor of the legislation argued that the continued delays are hurting the state’s farmers, who continue to wait for solutions as the market slowly inches forward.

“Crops were grown last year with the understanding that there would be a legal market for them to sell it… We are urging the governor to quickly sign this short-term solution, one that will help provide some measure of relief to what is quickly becoming an agricultural emergency,” the letter states.

Awaiting Solutions in the Midst of Farmers’ Woes

A sponsor memo attached to the bill references that growers were informed they would not be permitted to sell cannabis outside of state lines, though it also points out that they were expecting that New York’s “robust state market would exist during the conditional license time frame.” Crops are now losing their potency, color and terpene profile in storage, ultimately reducing their value if and when producers can finally sell it, the memo notes.

A New York grower’s showcase provided some relief for farmers with surplus products throughout 2023, leading to a total of 48 events with most open one or more days weekly. The current permit ends on Dec. 31, 2023, and while a possible extension was in play until recently, the future status of these markets remains undetermined.

While New York’s market continues to lag, tribal governments have stayed ahead of the curb, as the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe accepted the first adult-use license applications just months after the state first legalized recreational cannabis in 2021.

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