ALBANY — State regulators announced this week that they have cleared the first 15 companies to produce the edibles and other marijuana-derived products that will be sold by cannabis dispensaries when they open for sale.
There is still no specific target date for the start of legal retail sales of marijuana and its extracts for recreational use by adults.
The State Office of Cannabis Management is developing the regulatory framework for the new cannabis market and simultaneously trying to make it safe, have a positive economic impact and ensure social justice and fairness for the communities that , for decades, have borne the brunt of marijuana law enforcement efforts. .
But the state still expects the first dispensaries to be open by the end of this year.
To that end, it has issued licenses to 242 growers as of Monday. The next steps in the supply chain are processors, the first 15 of which the CMO was licensed on Monday; quality control testing laboratories, which will soon be able to apply for licenses; and the retail dispensaries themselves.
Five of the first 15 processor licenses were issued in or near the Capital Region: All In One Extracting & Product Manufacturing LLC in Schenectady County; Jenny’s Baked at Home Company LLC of Columbia County; Lunulata LLC and Phil Spinelli Farrier Service LLC in Albany County; and Veterans Holdings Inc. in Fulton County.
Veterans Holdings is a sister company to Veterans Hemp Market in Broadalbin.
Owner/founder/CEO Jason Ambrosino says it was a natural move for his company, which was founded to commercialize the therapeutic qualities of cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound in cannabis plants that doesn’t produce the tetrahydrocannabinol high. .
(The 15 processor licenses announced on Monday went to companies that already held cannabinoid hemp processor licenses.)
Ambrosino said the company was rooted in its own problems several years ago when an explosion in a combat zone caused the spine in the upper back and lower neck to shrink, leading to inflammation. nervous in arms and legs.
The pain became so intense and the drugs treating it were so strong that he was not functional on some days. The military fired him in 2014.
“Cannabis could have been the solution to all of this,” Ambrosino said.
Returning to civilian life after 10 years in uniform, he considers cannabis extracts as an alternative treatment. The results were immediate and ultimately led him to the business he operates today.
“The idea originally was that I was going to start Veterans Hemp Market with some of my buddies,” Ambrosino said. Instead, he runs it with his wife, Sonja, who is the general manager.
The company began CBD production and online sales in 2019, then opened its retail store in 2020, initially selling COVID protective gear rather than CBD.
Ambrosino said he is looking forward to the next step, selling adult recreational cannabis, but doesn’t know the exact path to take yet.
The state regulatory process is moving slowly, he said, and he can’t invest thousands of dollars in packaging, branding and marketing until state regulation for those things doesn’t. is not over.
Farmers are in a difficult position without a comprehensive plan in place to sell the crop, Ambrosino said. It’s less difficult for processors like him, he says, because he works with cannabis distillates, not the whole flower.
“When you break it all down, we’re cannabinoid preppers,” he said.
When it comes to the goals the state has in mind with its slow and steady market building process — social equity, a mentorship system, environmental sustainability, union work — Ambrosino is supportive.
“I think those are big goals. I appreciate what New York State is doing, they’re trying to do the right thing,” he said.
Some people are under the impression that the state designs an aircraft after takeoff.
If the social equity component of the cannabis program has a racial component, Ambrosino said, how easy will that be to satisfy in a 95 percent white county?
(The program is currently being designed and details will be available in the fall, according to the CMO.)
There are also the economic aspects of the program.
The risk of adding too many secondary points of interest to the recreational cannabis market, and then taxing it heavily, is that the retail cost of the products becomes prohibitive.
“That’s my concern,” Ambrosino said.