Local farm one of first licensed cannabis growers in New York State

(Photo Source: Main Street Farms).

Main Street Farms — known around Cortland County for their fresh, local produce — is hoping to lead the way for a new cannabis revolution.

The company, which currently sells hemp and CBD products under the Head + Heal brand, was awarded one of the first 52 adult-use cannabis conditional cultivator licenses in April. Karli Miller-Hornick, the CEO of Head + Heal and the director of operations at Main Street Farms, said the news was “incredibly exciting.” The local farm was the only one in Cortland County so far to receive such a license.

The approved licenses are from a pool of more than 150 that have been submitted to the New York State Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) following the March 15 opening of the online application portal. The OCM will continue to review applications on a rolling basis and will work to get them to the board for approval as soon as possible. 

“We will be growing cannabis this year,” Miller-Hornick said. “We also have an extraction facility in Cortland, so we’ll also be making wellness products, mostly tinctures, topicals and maybe some gummies.”

Miller-Hornick said the plan is to also offer high-quality outdoor flower, pre-rolled joints, and eventually move into the space of cannabis-infused drinks. 

“We got a lot going on,” she summarized. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul commended New York farmers, noting the new set of licenses are bound to help local businesses flourish.

“New York’s farms have been the backbone of our state’s economy since before the American Revolution. Now, New York’s farms will be at the center of the most equitable cannabis industry in the nation,” Hochul said in a statement. “I’m proud to announce the first adult-use cannabis cultivation licenses in the state. I’m proud of the work the OCM and the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) are doing to get adult-use cannabis sales up and running as fast as possible without compromising our mission to uplift communities and individuals most impacted by the past century of cannabis prohibition.” 

As the state prepares to unveil regulations on cannabis sales, Main Street Farms will be one of the first companies to watch how it all unfolds.

“New York is very unique in that these first licenses are actually only available to people who grew hemp and had a hemp license previously,” Miller-Hornick said. “They're really going to all the farmers who really struggled in the hemp industry. At one point, the market crashed very quickly and a lot of farmers lost a lot of money, so these first licenses are going to the farmers who have experience and have been growing vegetables, food and products on their farms for years.”

This is a positive since these farmers know how to build a sustainable industry, Miller-Hornick said.

“It's kind of surreal to be one of the first in New York. It’s very exciting and we’re very optimistic,” she added. “But at the same time, we don't really know what’s (going to) happen. It’s all (going to) unfold and it’ll be very interesting.”

The state is aiming for legal cannabis products to be sold at the end of 2022 and the start of 2023.

“We’ve been working hard to establish this industry, and now, New York farmers will be able to plant seeds in our fertile ground, so dispensaries owned by justice-involved New Yorkers with business experience will be able to sell these products in stores by the end of the year,” CCB chair Tremaine Wright noted in a release. “Growing season waits for no one, and we’re moving as quickly as possible to help our local farmers take full advantage of it this spring. “ 

Miller-Hornick said she is a bit skeptical about the state’s tight timeline.

“That’s a very short timeline and they haven't even released an application. They haven’t gotten applicants yet,” she added.

The first slew of applicants for a retail license in the state are set to be “equity applicants,” according to a provision in the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA). As per the bill, the state will prioritize communities who have been the subjects of over policing and over-enforcement of cannabis-related offenses.

“Because they're equity applicants, a lot of them are going to need funding from the state in order to build out dispensaries,” Miller-Hornick said. “There’s a pretty long timeline for all that to happen. They have to find locations, they have to fund it all, and then they have to build them. January, I think, is optimistic, but we're working toward that date for a launch of our cannabis products.” 

The marijuana business in New York could prove to be highly lucrative, according to projections provided by the governor’s office. Earlier this year, in the governor’s state of the state booklet, officials estimated that New York stands to generate more than $1.25 billion in marijuana tax revenue over the next six years.