Pot legalization proposal could help rural farmers in upstate NY

Lynette Adams
Created: December 11, 2019 08:21 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to begin the new year pushing for the legalization of recreational marijuana, which could be good news for farmers. The growing number of vaping-related lung illnesses, however, could complicate the debate.

Sen. Jen Metzger, the chair of the New York State Senate Agricultural Committee, says legalizing marijuana could help small rural farms in New York in a big way. She's pushing to make sure some of these family-owned businesses get a shot at cultivating marijuana.

Metzger says when marijuana is legalized in the state, only a certain number of licenses will likely be granted by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

"I want to make sure that whatever legislation passes, it passes in a way that benefits our small farmers, that benefits our family farms and ... the cultivation of it (marijuana) does not become a commodity of industrial agriculture," Metzger said.

The state's $6 billion budget gap could push lawmakers to look for new ways to raise revenue. Advocates say New York could reap hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue on legal pot. 

At the same time, there could be some push back as state health department numbers show an outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses.

The state health department has recorded reports of vaping-related illnesses in 22 upstate counties. It says the highest numbers are in Erie, Dutchess, and Monroe counties. 

The data doesn't provide a breakdown of how many of the illnesses are related to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, or where the vaping products were purchased.

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