By Cannabis Farmers Alliance, May 23rd 2024

Dear Governor Hochul,

Thank you for your ongoing support of New York agriculture, clearly demonstrated in recent state budgets. As a fellow Upstater, you understand the unique challenges in our farming communities. I write to you on behalf of New York’s cannabis farmers who face severe financial hardships due to the limited number of legal retail outlets, despite having produced thousands of pounds of cannabis in good faith.

Our farmers have become de facto bankers in an industry that lacks sufficient financial infrastructure, extending credit to processors and retailers without upfront payments. Retail markups of 600-700% force them to sell at a loss to sustain operations. The exclusion of the proposed Cannabis Farmer’s Relief Fund from the final State Budget was profoundly disappointing.

We invite you to hear our stories firsthand and understand the dire circumstances many of us face. In a recent survey, several members reported investing in adult-use cannabis to diversify their farms, only to face financial ruin.  Many have grown the produce and products on display at the “Taste of New York.”  Today, another distressed farmer contacted me seeking to sell his Microbusiness license after the financial strain threatened his marriage. These stories are becoming all too common.  Prior to devoting the majority of his time to cannabis he ran a successful property maintenance business.   

Based on our membership survey (with 108 respondents) 97% of farmers are operating at steep losses.  80% have the respondents took in $50,000 or less.  Currently, many have decided to cut back drastically on growing or have ceased to grow at all.  All of this hitting the market while more retail outlets are opening.  Processors are ringing the alarm bells about supply shocks and suggesting that AUCCs conditional license canopy be extended for another season with light processing.

There is precedent for state aid under extraordinary circumstances, such as the $30 million Dairy Assistance Program in 2007. Unfortunately, unlike other agricultural sectors, cannabis farmers are ineligible for crop insurance, making state intervention critical.

We are hopeful for your support to help us continue as vital contributors to New York’s cannabis industry and farming communities, preventing us from becoming collateral damage due to initial regulatory oversights. We believe in the potential of this industry and earnestly seek your help to remain a part of it. Your decisive action on the potency tax and enforcement of illicit shops are steps in the right direction that we commend.  The waiving of licensing fees was also very much needed and appreciated. We know you are trying hard to get things back on track in this industry.  We need your help to remain a part of it.  If you are interested, we are available at any moment to assist you in any way we can with our resources.