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Hemp processor licensing begins again after months of delays

Hemp Applications WEB

VESTAL, NY (WSKG) — Hemp processing licenses are once again moving forward with New York state certification, after some were delayed for months following the overhaul of the state's cannabis law, earlier this year.

Cannabinoid hemp processors, which primarily develop CBD and other products with low levels of THC, the psychoactive chemical found in other cannabis, had previously been permitted to operate under the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which legalized adult-use cannabis, among other provisions around the plant, moved licensing authority to the newly created Office of Cannabis Management.

For months, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo neglected to make appointments to the new cannabis regulatory arm, thus leaving the licensing and development of other regulations to languish over several months.

"The whole thing kind of went in limbo, which was unfortunate,” Eric Lundquist, owner of Northeast Extracts, a cannabis processor told WSKG at his facility in Penn Yan.

According to documents provided to WSKG from the Department of Health via public records request, 40 applications for processing licenses remained unapproved, some of which had been submitted as far back as February.

Those processing licenses were amongst over 2,500 unapproved licenses for cannabinoid hemp retailers and manufacturers. Over $1 million in fees for these license applications remained in the hands of the state as the remained unapproved.

Lundquist and the other processors were allowed to continue operating under temporary approval, but were doing so without official “current good management practices” certification. He said that approval is critical for marketing his CBD extract, which he wants potential customers to know meets high standards.

Trever Sherman, co-owner of Ithaca Organics in Tompkins County, said he’s been in a similar situation waiting for the state to approve his license.

"We applied for a processing license a few years ago when it was through Ag and Markets and boy that was a nightmare,” Sherman said. “It's hard to get ahold of anybody there. We basically got told we were going to get put on a waiting list. Meanwhile, we wanted to make our own product and that was part of our business plan."

He said he was able to process some of the hemp he grew on premises, but most of his material was sent out to other processors who had already received certification. Sherman said this limited the amount of quality control he could exercise over the end products.

Last month, the state’s Cannabis Control Board finalized new regulations, allowing the Office of Cannabis Management to move ahead with licensing. Sherman said he’s expecting an audit of his facility next month to get the final cGMP certification.

“Just kind of waiting to get this place up and running,” Sherman said. “We're almost there and we're looking forward to the next year really."

Over 2,500 unapproved licenses for cannabinoid hemp retailers and other certifications. Over $1 million in fees for these license applications remained in the hands of the state.

Currently, there are only 18 cGMP certified hemp processors in New York,according to the Department of Health. Under the new regulations, hemp products sold by retailers in the state must be processed under New York’s guidelines.

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across New York since 2016. Working as a freelancer while studying journalism and economics at Ithaca College, Vaughn has reported for a number of outlets including the Albany Times Union, New York Post, and NPR among others. Prior to coming to WSKG full-time, Vaughn was a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. Vaughn now covers government and politics for WSKG.