If, as expected, the state’s cannabis regulatory agency passes a proposed set of permanent rules for the industry, any of the 11 medical companies that pony up a $5 million down payment will be able to open one of their medical stores to sell cannabis products to adults over 21 by the end of the year — a couple of years earlier than previously proposed.

They’ll be allowed to cultivate up to 100,000 square feet of weed in indoor environments not permitted for other growers, allowing them five harvests a year, compared to one for the struggling individual farmers currently licensed by the state to grow outdoors only. And they’ll be the only state licensees allowed to operate full farm-to-processor-to-retail operations. State officials prohibited this type of vertical integration in the law legalizing cannabis so that small operators entering the market had a better chance to succeed against deep-pocketed corporate players.

For those who have tracked the state’s legalization process, Big Weed’s multi-million entry may come as a surprise. When legalization took place in March 2021, the law’s progressive character assumed center stage. The state granted the first retail licenses to people who had been locked up on weed-related charges and their relatives. Upstate farmers who had lost their shirts when the market for hemp collapsed got the chance to grow the state’s first legal crops. To promote sustainability, the state required them to plant outdoors instead of in greenhouses, which trap global warming gasses.

“No other state in the country prioritized the people who were most negatively impacted more than New York,” state Assembly majority leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo), who co-sponsored the legislation, told THE CITY in an interview.

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