Regulations and red tape make it hard to sell cannabis in New York. Currently, just over a dozen licensed retailers are actively operating in New York. By introducing a marijuana farmers market, more retailers could sell their products as regulators continue to work to license and set up more legal brick-and-mortar storefronts. Officials say the cannabis farmers markets could start “within a month.”
The announcement comes after a town hall event last Thursday for cultivators organized by the Cannabis Association of New York (CANY) in conjunction with the state Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). During the meeting, attendees discussed how a farmers market could both offer businesses a sale model while giving consumers a safe place to shop. Over the last year, lots of cannabis was grown, but much of it needs a place to be sold. The farmers market aims to solve such concerns.
OCM Chief Equity Officer Damian Fagon said at the event that regulators hope to get the farmers markets ready to open “optimistically, within a month,” New York Cannabis Insider reported. According to OCM Director of Policy John Kagia, the rules for what will be called the “New York Cannabis Growers Showcase” program haven’t been released yet. However, Kagia says that there are “several issues that we’re still working through internally, but we have the authorization here to discuss it.”
The farmers market, aka New York Cannabis Growers Showcase, plans to have a minimum of three growers and at least one licensed retailer hosting farmers market-style events in authorized municipalities. On-site consumption will not allowed, at least at first, as that would mean additional permits obtained from the state Department of Public Health, so customers will have to enjoy back home. Alcohol is also not allowed. So, while the farmers markets offer help for sellers, New York is a long way away from providing fun, communal spaces for folks to enjoy cannabis, as one might enjoy a beer with friends at a bar.
However, farmers can try to obtain municipal approval to hold the farmers markets on their own property, which could provide communal gatherings. Additionally, they could try to sell at events like concerts and festivals, which sounds like a fun step in the right direction.
“We think this is really important because it does two things,” Kagia said. “One, it allows the growers to get in front of the consumers who are going to be buying legal regulated product in New York, and allows you to tell your stories. Two, it allows you to sell product much more quickly across the state, so the idea would be that the retailers are going to be confined to the regions where they’re authorized to operate, but the growers would be able to do this anywhere in the state.”
The idea for the marijuana farmers market pilot program comes after New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) administration stepped up its efforts to transition folks to the legal market, which, under current restraints, is difficult for both sellers and consumers. For many, buying on the black market, even if it’s illegal, offers better, more affordable products, demonstrating that if New York wants a thriving legal market, they have a lot of work ahead of them.
As part of efforts to persuade people to buy legally, a public education campaign was launched last month, pushing people to buy from licensed shops, relying on scare tactics of the dangers of buying illegally, and reminding folks that legal weed ideally means equity programs.
In March, officials announced that they are doubling the number of conditional adult-use marijuana licenses that can be approved from 150 to 300. Hochul also introduced legislation to crack down on vendors selling on the black market. Hochul visited one of the few currently operating cannabis retailers in February — but did not buy anything.