One year after the 2014 Farm Bill created a hemp pilot program for state-grown hemp to receive USDA approval, New York state launched its Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot Program under the Farm Bill in 2015. The program permitted a limited number of educational institutions and research facilities to grow, research and process industrial hemp.  In 2017, the participant cap was eliminated, and today, approximately 700 hemp growers and 100 processors operate under the program.

Weeks before the program was set to expire, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets revived it, issuing a decision extending it through September 30, 2021, without a participant cap.  The extension parallels U.S. Congress’s passing of a resolution empowering the continuation of the state programs.

Although the extension is welcome news for the hemp industry, New York hemp growers, distributors and retailers remain in a “gray area.” The Departments of Health and Agriculture and Markets have yet to release a regulatory framework to fill in the gaps of the Hemp Bill signed by the Governor over nine months ago.  Although the licenses and permits created by the Hemp Bill become enforceable at the start of the new year, uncertainty persists over what those license applications will look like, how hemp will be taxed, and what the testing requirements will be.  As part of National Hemp Action Day last month, the New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association and its many members took to the media to ask the Governor to release the regulations so they can get to work.

In the meantime, hemp growers and processors can continue to submit applications under the Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot Program through the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets website. The Department continues to accept license applications for review, but does not expect to issue new licenses under the program until at least November 1, 2020.

This alert does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on specific matters.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York State, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse and White Plains, as well as New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.