Capitol Notes

Hemp farmers prepare for lawsuit against Cuomo administration

Hemp farmers are laying the groundwork for a lawsuit against New York in response to proposed state regulations that would prohibit the sale of hemp flower.

More than $3,500 has been raised for a legal fund that would be used to pursue an injunction allowing the sale of hemp flower, according to the online fundraiser.

“This is not a publicity stunt or merely an attempt to extract some vague concessions from NYS; this is a serious legal case that – once initiated – has the law on its side, and has an outstanding legal team to bring about meaningful changes for our industry,” reads the fundraising appeal.

A ban on hemp flower would be particularly problematic for small farmers in New York, who are hoping to become boutique style retailers, like a craft brewery. The state Department of Health has argued that the prohibition is in keeping with the state’s effort to curtail smoking generally.

The public comment period on the proposed rules ended in January and the state DOH is in the process of reviewing the input it received. Revised changes to the regulations are expected later this month, but there is not likely to be significant revisions from what was proposed in the fall, according to an industry stakeholder.

The Agriculture Committee chairs in the legislature, Donna Lupardo and Michelle Hinchey, have introduced legislation that would supersede the regulations from the state DOH, ensuring that hemp flower could be grown and sold in New York. The Assembly bill began moving through the committee process on Tuesday.

The legislative memorandum notes that while hemp legislation and rules have been considered in Albany, an industry emerged under the existing regulatory framework. “Hemp flower was grown, packaged, and sold to a large customer base; products that will be illegal under the DOH framework,” reads the memo.

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