Marijuana Farmers Market Opens Alongside New York State Fair

The New York State Fair kicked off on Wednesday, and for the first time ever, attendees have the chance to browse—and buy—marijuana products from nearly a dozen local growers at a cannabis farmers market being held in conjunction with the event.

The so-called Great New York State Cannabis Showcase technically isn’t part of the state fair, but the pop-up exhibition and market will run concurrently from August 23 through September 3. It’s located less than a mile from the fairgrounds in Syracuse—a short ride on the free shuttle bus provided by organizers.

“We are happy to see a large-scale showcase come to life only minutes from the Great New York State Fair, so attendees can learn about the industry and purchase and enjoy products from actual NY producers,” said Allan Gandelman, president of the Cannabis Association of New York (CANY), an industry group whose members are participating in the farmers market.

The pop-up will run all day, from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m., with shuttle service running continuously between the event location and Gate 4 of the fairgrounds, according to FlynnStoned Dispensary, which is hosting the cultivators.

The ability to sell products on-site is a notable opportunity for small marijuana businesses at a time when few licensed retailers have opened across the state. Joann Kudrewicz, chair of CANY’s cultivation committee and CEO of marijuana breeding company Ravens View Genetics, called the event “a first-in-the-nation opportunity that will stimulate business for participating growers and retailers.”

One word of caution for fairgoers: Unlike years past, the New York State Fair will not allow smoking or vaping (of cannabis or tobacco) anywhere on the fairgrounds this year. Dedicated smoking areas can still be found outside some pedestrian gates. (In 2021, the fair allowed cannabis consumption outdoors anywhere tobacco could be smoked, except in designated non-smoking areas.)

The sale of hemp-derived cannabinoid products, meanwhile, will be allowed inside the state fair—a new development for 2023. Vendors with a cannabinoid hemp retail license or temporary retail permit may sell hemp-derived cannabinoid products both in-person and online, according to fair officials.

On the other side of the country, California’s state fair held its first-ever state-sanctioned cannabis competition last year, but that event did not involve the sale of marijuana.

The showcase in Syracuse is just the latest in a series of marijuana farmers markets popping up across New York. They’re put on through the Cannabis Growers Showcase (CGS) program, an initiative of New York’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) that allows licensed growers and processors to sell directly to consumers.

“These Growers Showcases are important to the industry as they provide more opportunities for growers and retailers to move their products,” CANY said in a press release, explaining that with such limited retail options, growers have been producing more marijuana than they can sell

“Over 300,000 pounds of cannabis has been cultivated,” the group said, “but only 18,000 pounds has been sold.”

Regulators voted to approve the program last month and quickly began accepting applications. The first pop-up event kicked off in the Hudson Valley on August 10.

There are now at least a dozen cannabis showcases scheduled across the state. Some are single-day affairs, like one scheduled for Saturday in association with a summer concert series in Hoosick Falls, but many others run regularly. Recurring markets can be found through the end of the year in New Paltz, Copake, New Hampton, Schuylerville, Granville, Batavia, Rochester, Newark and Salt Springs.

To receive approval for a CGS, applicants must demonstrate that they have at least three licensed adult-use cannabis cultivators and one conditional retail licensee. For every three additional cultivators, another provisional vendor must be included at the event.

OCM released templates of approval letters for municipalities and associated events along with the applications last month. It also provided inventory lists, attestation letters for CGS licensees and sample diagrams showing how events can be physically laid out.

New York’s cannabis regulators are also moving to license more marijuana retailers. Last month they approved an additional 212 provisional retailer licenses, the largest single batch of approvals up to that point. That brought the state’s total to 463 licensees that are gearing up to serve the adult market. It’s expected to take six months to a year, however, for the shops to open.

But a New York judge recently ordered regulators to temporarily stop processing cannabis business license applications after a group of military veterans filed a lawsuit arguing that the state is violating the legalization law by prioritizing licenses for certain social equity applicants.

There are currently fewer than two dozen adult-use retailers operating in New York amid what many observers see as a troubled rollout that has seen delays in financing and opening storefronts that are supposed to be provided to equity retailers by the state.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr/Joe Shlabotnik.

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