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New York marijuana: What to know about growing cannabis, medical marijuana manufacturing

Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke to reporters Monday, June 3, 2019, about whether he believes an agreement on legalizing marijuana can be reached before the legislative session ends June 19. Democrat and Chronicle

New York’s recreational marijuana battle sits on the front line of a generational war over American cannabis laws. As debate heats up, USA TODAY Network New York is compiling answers to key questions about legalized cannabis.

Medical marijuana companies are poised to grow more cannabis in New York whether recreational pot is legalized or not.

Throughout the state, new cannabis grows have broken ground, and medical marijuana manufacturing expansions are underway to meet growing demand.

So far, the cannabis industry infrastructure boom, which currently supplies more than 101,000 certified patients, has largely been fueled by the addition of opioid replacement and chronic pain as qualifying conditions in recent years.

But now that lawmakers are pushing greatly expanded access to medical marijuana, as well as adult-use recreational pot, many existing cannabis companies in New York are priming for even more production.

Cannabis in Acreage Holdings’ manufacturing facility in Syracuse, NY. (Photo: Submitted)

Meanwhile, New York farmers are hoping marijuana could be their next cash crop despite the cannabis industry competition. They are vying for a chance to supply what is expected to be a recreational pot marketplace between $1.7 billion and $3.5 billion.

The New York Farm Bureau recently backed a bill that would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in New York, which lawmakers are considering before they end their annual session June 19.

The legislation includes measures meant to ensure struggling farmers in New York’s poorer counties get a chance to break into the marijuana and hemp extract industries, the farm group noted in announcing its support. The bill also allows adults to grow up to six cannabis plants at home for personal use.

What follows is an analysis of marijuana growing and manufacturing in New York as part of the USA TODAY Network’s ongoing investigation of marijuana legalization.

New growers

Smiths Falls, Ontario openly embraces its “Cannabis Capitol’ label, five years after Canopy Growth, the world’s largest marijuana processor set up shop in this community. Wochit

To understand the stakes of producing legal marijuana in New York, consider some of its grow operations already linked to massive cannabis industry conglomerates.

Citiva Medical, which recently opened a Dutchess County medical marijuana dispensary, is building a 39,500-square-foot medical marijuana grow operation in Orange County and has plans for much more production if recreational pot is passed.

It’s affiliated with the pot conglomerate, iAnthus Capital, which has medical and recreational operations in Colorado, Massachusetts and other states.

Citiva’s New York plan includes building as large as an 125,000-square-foot grow and manufacturing campus on the Orange County property it bought for $526,000, company statements show.

The California-based MedMen Enterprises pot conglomerate is manufacturing medical marijuana in Utica, Oneida County, and has plans to build out the site to replicate its 45,000-square-foot $15 million pot production plant in Nevada’s high desert.

MedMen CEO Adam Bierman described the Nevada factory’s opening last year as an example of how legitimate the marijuana industry has become, USA TODAY Network reported.

A field of industrial hemp grown in 2017 in Ithaca by the Cornell University Hemp Research Team. Faculty members with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are experimenting with the crop to learn the best growing processes across the state. (Photo: Provided photo)

“What does it say to the world that marijuana can be this high-tech?” Bierman said last year. “What does it do to the stigma … when (people) talk about marijuana and the industry? This is history.”

The Nevada facility included a 26,000-square-foot greenhouse that was manufactured in Holland — long known for its tulips and tolerant attitude toward marijuana use — and features a host of advanced machinery and lighting that can be fine-tuned to a spectrum more conducive to marijuana growing.

NY's marijuana legalization debate comes as cannabis production ramps up statewide for medical marijuana, maybe recreational pot, too

Two NYC men busted with $3 million in marijuana at alleged Massachusetts grow house

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Two New York City men were busted in Western Massachusetts Wednesday for allegedly operating an illegal grow house in the state where authorities uncovered $3 million in marijuana, police said.

Brooklyn resident Bin Huang, 32, the owner of the home in the town of Savoy, and Yebin Mai, of Staten Island, were charged with marijuana trafficking after authorities were tipped off to the alleged operation by a utility crew on July 29.

Authorities executing a search warrant at the home last Friday discovered nearly 3,600 marijuana plants valued at more than $3 million, according to a Massachusetts State Police press release.

The house had been using roughly $10,000 in electricity a month, according to records from regional electric company Eversource.

The excessive power use caused an electrical problem with a utility pole outside the Jackson Road residence that prompted an inspection by Eversource crews last Wednesday.

The workers found overloaded and damaged wires and encountered Mai at the home, where they tried to tell him they needed to shut off power.

Mai claimed his English was shoddy, declined to let the workers inside to check the electrical hookups and handed a worker an envelope stuffed with $100 bills.

Initially, Mai would not take the money back. But when police were later called by the utility workers, the money was successfully returned.

The officers from Massachusetts State Police who responded noticed a smell of marijuana, the sound of fans and even spotted marijuana plant remnants in the woods behind the house.

By Saturday, authorities were granted the search warrant.

The home remained unoccupied until Wednesday when Huang and Mai returned.

Police were tipped off to their arrival, and arrested the duo after they left the house in a white 2019 Ford pickup truck with a New York registration.

Bail was set for both men at $100,000. They are set to appear in court on Friday.

Two New York City men were busted in Western Massachusetts Wednesday for allegedly operating an illegal grow house in the state where authorities uncovered $3 million in marijuana, police said. ]]>