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NY hemp producers want Cuomo to issue rules for extracts before temp regulations expire

Published September 17, 2020

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New York hemp growers and processors want Gov. Andrew Cuomo to issue guidelines from a bill last year to regulate the sale of extracts from the plant, like CBD, before 2014 Farm Bill pilot provisions expire on Oct. 31.

New York has some 700 hemp growers, producing thousands of pounds for more than 100 in-state processing facilities this fall, according to Hemp Industry Daily‘s 2020 U.S. Hemp Harvest Outlook.

“It’s going to be a disaster if they have to sit on this much hemp,” said Allan Gandelman, a Cortland hemp grower and processor who is also president of the New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association. “We need these regulations now.”

Gandelman said the rules need to be issued now to allow a 60-day comment period and applications, which are to be issued Jan. 1.

New York decided against developing and submitting an in-state hemp regulation plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture last month. The result is that USDA, not in-state authorities, will be charged with regulating hemp production in New York after Nov. 1, when the national rule is set to take effect.

New York growers and processors worry that without the guideline Cuomo signed last year, they’ll be operating in a gray area.

New York hemp growers and processors want Gov. Andrew Cuomo to issue guidelines from a bill last year to regulate the sale of extracts from the plant, like CBD, before 2014 Farm Bill pilot provisions expire on Oct. 31.

New York tries to restore order to CBD market, clears way for hemp-infused drinks

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo remains optimistic, and says the issues surrounding the rising industry ‘happens when you try something new.’ pressconnects.com

New regulations proposed in New York will assure consumers that CBD products manufactured and sold in the state meet minimum potency and safety standards while also clearing the way for hemp-infused beverages and food.

The long-awaited rules were largely hailed by industry, but included one glaring omission that raised objections from growers and processors who are trying to reinvigorate a business stuck in neutral following once grand growth projections.

Among the prohibitions contained in the 63 pages of recently released rules is a ban on the sale of flower from the non-psychoactive form of the cannabis plant. The smokable form is among the most popular items in the fledgling CBD market, and the prohibition cuts off a potential lucrative avenue for growers.

“By banning it you’re really screwing over farmers,” said Kaelen Castetter of CSG Hemp, a Binghamton producer of CBD products.

Cannabinoids, the byproduct from the low-THC derivative of the cannabis plant, have been touted for their potential in relieving several maladies including anxiety and chronic pain, among other afflictions, though the science to back up the claims remains elusive.

But based on anecdotal evidence, some CBD-laced products have found a loyal following among consumers.

“These (regulations) are fantastic guardrails for safety and quality assurance because they mandate compliance with good manufacturing practices,” said Joy Beckerman, owner and founder of Hemp Ace International, an expert witness and legal consulting firm.

Consumer protections

A hemp plant in Cornell’s Horticultural Sciences Greenhouse in Geneva. (Photo: Zachary J. Krahmer, Special Contributor to USA TODAY Network)

New York’s regulations attempt to restore order to a marketplace where product standards are wanting, and consumers have few assurances the product on shelf adheres to information on the label.

The rules finally provide the industry a more definitive path toward commercialization of industrial hemp.

“A lot consumers didn’t know what they weren’t being sold,” said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell, who heads the Assembly Agriculture Committee and has been spearheading the effort to develop the hemp industry in New York for the past six years.

Under the rules now being considered all aspects of the hemp supply chain would be licensed and regulated under the auspices of the state Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Merchandise on the shelf would be covered by strict labeling codes that will provide the ability to trace the product’s provenance from field to store.

CBD producers are optimistic but guarded in their assessments.

The new regulations are “a great start” for the local hemp industry, said Ed McCauley. He and former flower farmer Adam Kurtz run Fusion Holding Group in Oregon and New York’s Orange County.

Opened in 2016, it makes the already popular Fusion CBD brand.

“There’s definitely going to be better quality products on the shelves in New York,” said Michael Geraci, co-owner of the Orange County-based Hemp Farms of New York, another early local hemp grower and CBD maker.

New regs strive for quality control

Co-Owner of Hemp Farms of New York walks through processed bio mass at Hemp Farms of New York in New Windsor, NY on Thursday, October 29th, 2020. The nutrient rich bio mass, which is the end product of hemp that has been processed for CBD oil is sold and given to area farms to be used as cow feed. KELLY MARSH/FOR THE TIMES HERALD-RECORD (Photo: KELLY MARSH/FOR THE TIMES HERALD-RECORD)

The state regulations note there has been a “rapid increase” in the use of cannabinoid hemp products and notes the federal government has not implemented its own regulatory system.

“In this absence, unscrupulous actors have entered the market and sold cannabinoid hemp products that do not meet the quality control standards common in the established supplement, food and cannabis industries,” the regulations read.

“Reports of cannabinoid hemp products that do not contain any cannabinoids at all or are contaminated with harmful toxins and pesticides are common.”

Random testing at all stages of production by Health Department inspectors would be allowed under the proposed New York regulations.

Permission to produce food and beverages infused with CBD, within certain limits, was roundly applauded by the industry.

The move will allow the production of water, seltzer, gummies, chocolates, teas, juices and even items such as granola and bread infused with hemp extract.

“That’s huge for the industry,” Castetter said.

No alcohol products or transdermal patches will be allowed.

New York setting the standard

A CBD hemp field at Cornell University’s New York Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. (Photo: Jeff Platsky/Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin)

By establishing strict regulations, New York hopes to set the standard going forward, Lupardo said, establishing the state as a leader in the hemp industry, allowing merchandise by home-grown producers to be considered among the best on the market.

Lupardo said extensive rules issued by the health department should give the industry a much needed boost, encouraging a host of start-ups to gear up, generating a new source of jobs across upstate New York.

“You’re going to see a stabilization of the marketplace and then you’re going to see growth,” Lupardo predicted.

The assemblywoman also said the rules could jump start Canopy Growth’s $9 million investment in an industrial hemp hub outside of Binghamton. Though announced more than a year ago, the progress on the effort has been slow.

After being burned by over-producing hemp last year, it’ll likely take at least two years for the new state regulations to begin paying off for many farmers, said Maire Ullrich, the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s agriculture program leader for Orange County.

Hudson Valley farmers planted upwards of 1,500 acres of hemp last year, including up to 700 acres in Orange County alone, Ullrich estimated in 2019. Statewide nearly 20,000 acres were planted last year, up from 3,500 acres in 2018, according to state estimates.

Plus, all that New York hemp production last year led the price per percentage point of CBD per pound of hemp to plummet to less than $1 in early 2020 compared with a high of $4 as recently as summer 2019, Ullrich said.

Some growers need between $4 and $10 per pound for it to even be worth growing hemp for CBD, McCauley said.

Any retailer seeking to sell CBD products will be required to pay $300 for a state license.

“It’s going to be a shockwave for some operators,” Castetter said of the extensive regulations.

Flower ban draws criticism

Conforming with federal rules, New York will require all products contain less than 0.3% THC, the substance responsible for the sense of euphoria after using marijuana or other cannabis infused products.

Industry representatives were left searching for a rationale behind the flower ban, saying it seemed counter-intuitive given New York’s expected to move toward the adoption of adult-use marijuana next year.

In the adult-use market, flower products are among the most popular products.

“I share in the frustration of our members and the hundreds of growers throughout the state who have spent significant resources in harvesting their crop this year that hemp flower will not be allowed for sale,” said Allan Gandelman, president of the New York Cannabis Growers & Processors Association.

The federal government removed the non-psychoactive variant from the controlled substance list in late 2018 as part of the updated Farm Bill. New York has allowed industrial hemp cultivation under an experimental program since 2015.

Comments on the new regulations will be accepted by the Health Department from Nov. 10, 2020, through Jan. 11, 2021 — meaning they could take effect as soon as early next year, following time for revisions and more public notification.

Lupardo said she expects a few tweaks to the proposal based on the discussion and have final rules in next year’s first quarter.

To comment on the new state regulations for hemp, email [email protected], call 518-473-7488 or write to NY DOH Bureau of Program Counsel, Regulatory Affairs Unit, Corning Tower, Empire State Plaza, Rm. 2438, Albany, New York 12237-0031.

Jeff Platsky covers transportation and the economy for the USA TODAY Network New York. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter: @JeffPlatsky. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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New York's rules provide the industry a more definitive path toward commercialization of industrial hemp.