US (NY): First legal cannabis crop is growing and bound for stores this year

Shawn Bedard's weed-dealing past used to be a barrier to employment, so much so that he says even a medical cannabis company declined to hire him due to his felony drug convictions.

But today, in a stark reversal made possible by New York's legalization last year of pot for adult recreational use, Bedard presides over thousands of growing cannabis plants in a set of Orange County greenhouses that are helping nurture the state's first legal cannabis crop. With full approval of the state that once prosecuted him, Bedard tends to rows of seed-grown Lemon Bubba and Singapore Sling with the devotion of a lifelong weed enthusiast and the hard-won expertise he has accumulated without formal training.

As he puts it, his rap sheet is now his resume. "And that is what's gotten me kind of here," Bedard said during a tour on Tuesday of the Warwick greenhouses he oversees. "And that’s why I’m willing to take my small family and go anywhere in the country that can get me closer to being an accepted human being in our society. Or else I have to constantly fall back into the Grateful Dead parking lots and the places that will embrace me."

Bedard is working with one of the 223 licensed hemp growers in New York who have gotten two-year cultivation licenses to inaugurate the state's adult-use cannabis industry. The pungent plants now growing in fields and greenhouses from the tip of Long Island to Niagara Falls are set to be harvested in time to be sold before the end of the year in state-licensed dispensaries, after being packaged as dried flowers for smoking, pre-rolled joints or gummies and other consumable products.


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