Growing concerns for NY cannabis growers

MADISON COUNTY, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — As the state continues to hash out a final state budget that’s now due Monday, April 15, cannabis farmers are staying hopeful.

Cannabis farmers are keeping a close eye on the budget with a proposal that stands out to many growers who are losing big money because of New York’s slow rollout of legal dispensaries.

In an effort to help offset those losses, the state could be delivering New York farmers millions in aid through a cannabis relief fund. It includes $60 million in loans, $40 million in grants through the cannabis farmer relief fund and $28 million in tax refunds.

Concerns are now budding for cannabis growers as we near Monday’s state budget deadline.

“It’s been a huge struggle because the slow rollout of the retail dispensaries,” said Stephen Halton, owner of Real Life Botanicals in Madison County.

Many dispensary owners are still waiting to be licensed. The slow rollout has had a major impact on growers like Halton.

“In total, since I got licensed, I’ve lost over half a million dollars,” said Halton.

Still new to the industry, Halton decided to trade traditional farming for a new venture. The Central New York native decided to open his own business and began growing cannabis in May of 2022 after earning his license. But Halton wouldn’t see any green until his first sale in November of 2023.

“There are certain nights that I want to go back to regular crop farming, but then walking through the fields, I have to remember that the 15-year-old me would probably think the current me is pretty cool with all the cannabis,” said Halton.

But that can only get you so far.

“If farmers don’t have relief and we don’t have money to put seeds in the ground, the only thing that’s going to be in the market is going to be the illicit market because the farmers are struggling,” said Halton.

But Halton is staying optimistic in hopes the state budget will pass the cannabis relief fund.

“Hopefully the governor will support the cannabis farmers and help us with relief because there’s already family farms that are going out of business,” said Halton.

But not for Halton. He still plans on growing again this season and will begin planting cannabis starting next month.

“It will be interesting to see how the next couple of months ago,” said Halton.

Holding on to high hopes.

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