EDITOR’S NOTE: The Columbia Paper is counting down the top 5 local stories of 2023. We looked at the top stories of the year, those that drew the highest number of readers to our website and Facebook page, or that had the greatest impact on our community and its residents. Here is the Number 5 story for the year.
Pot producers pop up in Copake
By DAVID LEE
COPAKE – In New York state, the recreational use of cannabis has been legal for adults ages 21 and over since 2021. As the roll-out for selling in any legal way has been slow, cannabis showcases have been conducted around the state. A pop-up cannabis farmer’s market has been held every weekend since August 17 at Empire Farm.
The farm brought together growers, processors and distributors. Growers showing their wares were Starlit420 from the Finger Lakes region, Chessworth Farm in Jefferson County on the Canadian border and Empire Farm in Copake, host of the event. All In One Processing and Manufacture showed their edibles and vape systems and Legacy Dispensaries represented distributors. Hours are Saturday from noon to 6:30 p.m. for the rest of the year.
Licensing for storefront and distribution sales has been stopped due to law suits that claim unfairness. Tessa Williams is an author, entrepreneur, and proprietor of Empire Farm and the founder of FarmOn! Foundation, a non-profit started in 2011 to foster agricultural engagement especially among young and beginning farmers.
She said, “They told us to grow. Now we have all this product and no way to market it. This is the only way for us to sell.”
A cannabis entrepreneur with a conditional license is limited to one of the three license categories: adult use conditional cultivator the farmer who grows the plants, the adult use processor who prepares the plants in the form of smoking, edibles or vaping options, and the conditional adult-use retail dispensary. A grower can not distribute or process. At the Empire Farm showcase, the various forms of cannabis can be selected for purchase from the licensed growers, but the transaction and dispensation may only be done by the licensed distributor. Consumption is not allowed on the premises.
The dispensary category has its own unique requirements. Now that cannabis has been made legal in New York, there are a lot of aggrieved people who have spent years in prison for something that is now permitted. The state CAURD Program (Conditional Adult-use Cannabis Retail Dispensary) which oversees the licensing of retail dispensaries, prioritizes people who have been formally convicted of a cannabis related offense in New York State, with the purpose of “speeding the delivery of investments into communities across New York State that were impacted by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition,” according to the New York State Office Cannabis Management.
The beast at the heart of the labyrinth is the fact that cannabis is still federally prohibited. The Drug Enforcement Administration lists it as a Schedule I substance. On a scale from I-V, Schedule I substances are defined as “drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Other drugs listed in this category are heroin, LSD, Ecstasy, methaqualone and peyote. The validity of that categorization will undoubtedly be put to the test in the future as recreational cannabis is currently legal and decriminalized in 25 states. There are six states where it remains entirely illegal. The remainder of states have some mixed legality such as an allowance for non-psychoactive CDB which has specific medicinal applications.
For those engaged with the growing, processing and sale of recreational marijuana everything feels conditional. Matthew Robinson is the proprietor of Legacy Dispensaries. He is a beneficiary of the state CAURD program.
“I’m one of the lucky 23, there are 400 or so that can’t get their licenses, and they’ve invested a lot of money— I’ve invested a lot of money…..Right now the CGS (Cannabis Growers Showcase) event is all we have.
“The Copake event is chill, relaxed, It has a good vibe. I always have a good time when I go down there,” he said.
Mr. Robinson spoke of the additional problem of corporate multi-state operators who he feels distort the rules to their advantage.
“I have nothing against making money, but they are trying to stop others from making money. They can do this because they have a lot of money to start with,” he said.
Mr. Robinson’s store will be in Colonie when he gets permission to build it.