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New York Takes the Grow Plunge with Outdoor Grows Upstate |

New York finally allows recreational cannabis sales after many years of struggle against outdated and racist laws. The industry has now taken off with the opening of some of the 203 first licensed hemp growers. The twist is that these licenses are now available outdoors. 

Not exactly what you’d expect for New York, but weather-wise, it’s prime season. While indoor growers may soon follow suit, growers like Frank Popolizio at Homestead Farms and Ranch have been getting to work with outdoor crops for the moment. 

“It is an opportunity. There’s obviously going to be a demand for it,” Popolizio tells the Press Herald. “And, hopefully, it benefits the farmers. Been a long time since there’s been a real cash crop.”

The outdoor growers are legally allowed to cultivate because of their “conditional cultivator” licenses, which let them grow up to an acre of cannabis outdoors. You can also grow some crops in greenhouses. Their license lasts for 2 years and allows them to sell legal cannabis dispensaries. 

These small growers and farmers are helping the state to continue creating a fair and diverse cannabis market. This move is accompanied by the first state licenses for cannabis sales to be given to people with marijuana convictions or their families. 

“There’s a market that we’re building for small players, for big players, for medium-sized players, for family businesses, for big corporations as well,” says Chris Alexander, executive director of the state’s Office of Cannabis Management. “We do think it will be sufficient to provide that initial supply to our dispensary locations that we get up and running.” 

The majority of cannabis that is currently grown outdoors and in greenhouses will end up being used to make edibles. However, some can be sold as smokable flowers. Although outdoor cannabis may contain lower levels of THC than indoor plants, there are many benefits to growing outside. 

“It’s called sun-grown marijuana,” says grower Moke Mokotoff of Claverack Creek Farm in the Hudson Valley. “And a lot of aficionados just like the way it smokes better.”

Additionally, growing cannabis outside, under the sun, also takes less energy than electricity-heavy indoor grows, which makes it appealing for many who are more environmentally-conscious. You can also sell cannabis at lower prices many times. 

There is another issue: Weed thieves. The electric fencing is used to protect outdoor plants in New York. Many fences have motion detectors and cameras for extra protection. 

These outdoor growers are causing a slow start for the industry. Indoor growers will be the key to a significant increase in cannabis production, particularly if they are growing medical marijuana indoors. The issuance of more licenses is ongoing, so there will likely be additional licensing in the early part 2023. Many are already ready and waiting to benefit from this. 

Green Thumb Industries will be one of the major players, originally from Chicago. The facility will be built on almost 4.5 acres of former prison land. This facility will be able to produce many products, and it will serve the majority of the state. It is the fifteenth state that the company has been established. 

“New Yorkers have been watching the industry flourish from the sidelines,” CEO Ben Kovler said, “and have high expectations for the forthcoming adult-use market.”

Although it is still unclear how these industry members will prioritize small growers and poor distributors, as well how much they will own, the outdoor hemp growers seem to have some advantage for the moment.