Cannabis Growers in New York Seek Relief as Bill Enables Sales to Tribal Dispensaries
Date: June 14, 2023
Location: New York
Stone Slade - High at 9 News
New York's cannabis growers have been facing significant challenges as they wait for more state-licensed pot dispensaries to open and provide a market for their products. However, there is a glimmer of hope for these farmers as the state legislature has approved a bill that would allow licensed marijuana growers to sell their cannabis and cannabis products to adult-use cannabis retailers on tribal lands.
The move is expected to provide New York farmers with a much-needed outlet to sell their crops. Currently, cannabis sales have been thriving on tribal reservations in Western New York, with the Senecas' first Nation-owned dispensary opening in Niagara Falls in April, along with independently operated stores across native territories.
Despite this positive development, growers emphasize the urgent need for the state to expedite the opening of more state-licensed stores if they are to survive. With only a limited number of licensed retailers currently operating in the state, including zero in Western New York, growers have struggled to find buyers for their crops, leaving them with large quantities of cannabis sitting in storage. The slow and flawed rollout of retail dispensaries has compounded their challenges.
To address the situation, the Office of Cannabis Management is working on regulations that would allow growers and retailers to collaborate and hold farmer's markets as an additional avenue to sell products outside of storefront retail. However, many growers view these measures as temporary fixes for the real issue: the failure to establish an effective distribution system.
Farmers like Thomas Szulist, a licensed grower and owner of Singer Farm Naturals, have resorted to processing their cannabis into more shelf-stable products to prevent spoilage. However, this approach incurs additional costs, such as manufacturing and packaging expenses, without the guarantee of sufficient distribution channels to recoup their investments.
Chris Van Dusen, co-owner of Empire Hemp Co., echoes the frustrations of growers, stating that they have been holding unsold products worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for over a year. While tribal dispensaries have shown interest in working with licensed growers, the profitability of sales to these retailers remains uncertain due to the lower prices they currently offer.
The approval of the Cannabis Crop Rescue Act, which awaits Governor Kathy Hochul's signature, aims to address these challenges by allowing adult-use cultivators and processors to sell their products to tribal nation-regulated retailers. The Seneca Nation has expressed support for the bill, recognizing the partnership between sovereign entities and the potential to prevent wasted or diverted cannabis products.
Despite the potential relief offered by sales to tribal retailers, concerns remain. Selling all their products to reservations could leave growers unprepared to supply licensed state shops once they finally open their doors. Balancing the need for immediate cash flow with long-term sustainability is a precarious task for these farmers.
In conclusion, while the recent legislative approval offers a glimmer of hope for New York's cannabis growers, their struggles continue. They eagerly await the establishment of more state-licensed dispensaries and a robust distribution system that would provide a stable market for their crops. The cannabis industry in New York is at a critical juncture, and the successful implementation of effective measures is essential to support both growers and retailers alike.