Cannabis Growers Showcases Sprout Across New York

NEW PALTZ, N.Y. — This market is tucked behind the courthouse, amid the drugstores and gift shops near many small American towns.


But New Paltz, about  85 miles north of New York City,  is full of surprises — and so is this market, which sells freshly grown cannabis.


Since Aug. 10, cannabis farmers, manufacturers, producers, and retailers have been selling their products here from Thursday to Sunday every week.


“We made history,” said Tricia Ports, co-founder of High Falls Canna, a cannabis-cultivation company in the Hudson Valley who partnered with the cannabis delivery service dispensary Legacy for this showcase. Ports organizes the event every week with her husband, Rick Weissman.


At the market, products come in many shapes and forms: cannabis-infused water, oil, gummies, and the traditional dried flowers (buds)  of the plant. Prices range from $12 for a pre-rolled joint to $79 for  concentrates higher in THC.


“We are very happy with the turnout and sales number,” said Tyler Graves, sales director at NOWAVE, a cannabis-processing company, “but the real value comes in building trust in the communities we’ve been invite being able to educate as many people as we can about in cannabis and what it does for the consumer.” Participants in the showcase would not disclose their sales numbers. 


The market also serves as a response to the state’s slow rollout of cannabis sales. Though cannabis was legalized in New York state more than two years ago, few dispensaries have opened; most recently, the rollout was stalled because of lawsuits against regulators.


A social equity program was introduced more than a year ago, regulated by the Office of Cannabis Management, offering those who were previously convicted of a cannabis-related offense or their relatives, priority access to the emerging cannabis market through retails licenses, named by state regulators as “CAURDs,” which stands for Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries. The state’s aim with this program is to redress the disproportionate impact of the war on drugs on certain communities.  From 2010 to 2018, Black people in the U.S were nearly four times more likely than white people to be arrested for cannabis possession, despite similar usage rates. 


Since the Spring of 2022, 463 CAURD licenses have been granted by New York’s Office of Cannabis Management. But a lawsuit filed by four veterans who felt left out led to a judge’s injunction. New York State Supreme Court Judge Kevin Bryant prohibited cannabis agencies from issuing new licenses, and from approving pending ones.


This has slowed cannabis sales, especially for those at the beginning of the supply chain — the farmers. To compensate, the Cannabis Control Board gave the green light to cannabis growers’ showcases.


Though New Paltz was the first to host a market, similar events are happening around the state. From New York City to Rochester, farmers are being given the opportunity to sell crops they’ve been sitting on for months.


Ben Sheridan, deputy director for strategy and policy implementation at the Office of Cannabis Management, described the obvious excitement coming from these markets as a sign of New York’s  “groundswell of support” during a recent regulatory meeting. “Despite whatever you might be hearing in the news, New Yorkers want this in their communities,” he added.  As of September, around 70 farmers are participating in the program, with sales averaging $10,000 a day for all the markets across New York State combined, according to Sheridan. The OCM estimates that the program will generate $12 million in sales by the end of the year.


“New York State doesn’t have nearly enough licensed dispensaries right now. And the market is giving us a great chance to move some product, get to know our customer, get to understand what products they like,” said Weissman.

About the author(s)

Natasha Bracken is an investigative journalism student at Columbia University.