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From Farms to Festivals: New York’s Innovative Approach to Cannabis Sales and Showcases

Mary Ekundayo

by Mary Ekundayo

August 29, 2023 12:00 pm ET Estimated Read Time: 6 Minutes
From Farms to Festivals: New York’s Innovative Approach to Cannabis Sales and Showcases

Imagine being able to go to the farmer’s market, and instead of buying food items, you get to examine cannabis plants, negotiate their prices, and have random conversations with the farmer. Fascinating right? Thanks to the New York Office of Cannabis Management, the idea of a legal cannabis showcase program is now a reality.

On the 19th of July, 2023, the Office of Cannabis Management in New York approved plans to permit cannabis ‘showcases’ and sales at public events. This decision by the state’s Cannabis Control Board was made to help cannabis cultivators earn a return on their investment. Although the sale of cannabis has been legalized in New York for a while, cannabis growers have not experienced sales commensurate with their harvest. This is because the state has a rather complicated licensing system, making it hard for retailers to get a license.

Consequently, cannabis farmers had tons of unsold products sitting on their farms, waiting to be sold. With this new approval, however, the cannabis industry is sure to blossom, with promises of excellent returns on investment for cannabis farmers. Farmers can now host showcases and trade fairs in public spaces in New York municipalities. They can also legally peddle their products at concerts and other public events.

Conditions for New York’s Cannabis Showcase Program

Unlike what you’d expect of typical government approvals, New York’s cannabis showcase program is not a disguise to inhibit farmers or cannabis production. In fact, the conditions for these showcases are not necessarily stringent. According to the Director of Policy of the New York State Office Of Cannabis Management, John Kagia, the showcases can be held at festivals and fairs on two conditions. 

Firstly, farmers must receive permission from the municipalities for the festival. In essence, cannabis showcase programs are only permitted in districts within the state that allow retail cannabis sales. Secondly, the fairs should only occur in places with a predominant adult population.

As a prerequisite for approving the Cannabis Grower Showcase program, there must be at least three (3) licensed cultivators at the showcase partnering with licensed dispensaries to sell tested, approved, and licensed cannabis products to customers.

Embracing Cannabis Culture In New York

Even beyond their new cannabis showcase program, The Empire State seems to embrace progressive measures on cannabis legalization in the state passionately. Even though the state was not the first to legalize the use or sale of cannabis in the United States, its acceptance of the cannabis culture is commendable. 

Cannabis was officially legalized for adult use in New York in March 2021. This was shortly after the pandemic when it was discovered that despite the lockdown, cannabis growers and dispensaries still found ways to get their products across to their customers. Not wanting to lose out on the revenue generated by the industry, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo enacted the state’s Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA).

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Landmark Events In The Development Of The New York Cannabis Industry

Before the enactment of this Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA), marijuana and marijuana products were named illegal under the New York Controlled Substances Act. However, the Act now takes them off the list, legalizes adult use and possession, and vests supervision of the substance in the Liquor Authority of New York State. The Act also established the Office of Cannabis Management in New York to be governed by the Cannabis Control Board and is tasked with issuing licenses and regulating participation in the industry.

In June 2021, the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services suppressed over 100,000 marijuana charges and convictions, with some expunged from past convicts’ records. The state then appointed members of the Cannabis Control Board and the Office of Cannabis Management. And by October 2021, medical dispensaries were allowed to sell their first batch of whole cannabis flowers.

Cannabis culture and the state’s acceptance of it has further evolved since then, with the New York cannabis industry witnessing so many landmark events. For instance, in January 2022, medical practitioners were, for the first time, certified to exercise complete discretion in deciding which patients are eligible for medical marijuana. Also, in April 2022, fifty-two (52) hemp farmers were granted conditional licenses to grow cannabis for recreational use.

The build-up of all other cannabis-related events in the state, like the launch of the state’s first dispensary, more licensing, seizure of cannabis from unlicensed cannabis farms, and branding regulations, have resulted in the approval of the Cannabis Grower Showcase program.

The Impact Of the Cannabis Showcase Program & Sales On The State Economy

The approval of the Cannabis Grower Showcase program in New York heralds good tidings not just for adult cannabis users, cultivators, patients, and medical practitioners but also for the state. In 2018, the New York cannabis market size was estimated to be around $1.8 billion and is projected to be valued at $7.07 billion by 2025. With the approval of cannabis showcases and festivals, there is no telling how high the industry’s value will go.

Being the revenue-generating powerhouse it is, the industry will pull income for the government first from taxes. During the approval of the Cannabis Grower Showcase, 212 conditional adult-use licenses were granted. That is 212 more individual farmers, cultivators, retailers, and dispensaries taxed on their income.

That aside, the industry is also sure to generate revenue from tourism. In 2021, the New York economy generated $85.5 billion from the $52 billion impact spending of visitors in the state. Again, this revenue generated from tourism is sure to skyrocket with the new approval. Adult users within and outside the country will flock to the Empire States to purchase cannabis flowers and products at these showcases.

Final Takeaway

The approval of a cannabis showcase program in New York is definitely one for the books. It is sure to improve the financial positioning of cannabis growers who have had cannabis plants wasting away on their farms. There are also hopes that the approval positively impacts the state’s economy, generating more revenue and preventing the growth of the illegal cannabis industry. Hopefully, more conditional licenses will soon be granted to allow for more retail opportunities and weed out illegal competition.

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