ALBANY — Hemp is a hot crop and New York farmers are hoping to cash in on cannabis.
Growers have been hoping that hemp will help the struggling upstate economy since Congress passed The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, or the “Farm Bill, late last year removing the plant from the controlled substances list and approving it for industrial growth.
Lawmakers in the Empire State have further watered those green dreams by passing a bill that would allow the state to regulate the growth and sale of products containing CBD and other hemp extracts and ensure the products are properly labeled.
“Through creating standards of production and transparency, the legislation meets the important goal of creating a bond of trust with consumers,” the New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association said. “Transparency in the supply chain serves multiple interests—farmers, consumers and government.”
CBD, a cannabis derivative that proponents believe eases anxiety and other ills without marijuana’s high, is derived from strains of the plant, known as hemp, that contain very low concentrations of THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.
Interest in the extract has blossomed as marijuana laws changed in several states and topical creams and infused edibles popped up in coffee shops, restaurants and even gas stations.
In 2018, an estimated $300 million was spent on CBD food and drinks, according to a report by Cowen Washington Research Group. But the proliferation has caused concern as the extract remains highly unregulated.
While it was technically legalized through the federal Farm Bill, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t definitively determined its safety or proven any measurable health benefits.
The state legislation, sponsored by Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Broome County) and Sen. Jen Metzger (D-Rosendale), creates strict licensing, labeling, testing and inspections for cultivating, processing, distributing and selling hemp extracts, including CBD.
It’s unclear if Gov. Cuomo is keen on the bill although he has repeatedly called for the expansion of hemp farming in the state.
“You have to read the bill,” Cuomo said shortly after the measure passed both chambers last month. “Government 101 — read the bill before you vote for it; read the bill before you support it.”