By Augustus Fei and Katherine Hoey
Open Minded Organics Farms opened its apothecary store’s doors on March 1st in Sag Harbor, but a looming cannabis ban threatens to remove a multitude of products from its shelves.
One of the two hemp farms on Long Island, Open Minded Organics expanded its produce to include hemp in 2017, David Falkowski, the owner, said. The farm’s first harvest this past fall was a way to cover for the loss of a middle-class clientele increasingly moving away from the East End, Falkowski said.
“I always wanted to run a local store,” Ashley Falkowski said. She believes that branching out to retail and hemp could help out a bit with finances. Falkowski would focus on selling produce at the farmstead while Mrs. Falkowski would operate the apothecary which sells products ranging from CBD oils to farm-grown herbs, like sage.
“We’re a bit uncertain about the whole ban for now, but we were planning on selling CBD oils and hemp products that we made at the farm,” she said.
NY is projected as the the second biggest market for recreational cannabis by 2025, trailing only California, Kraig Smith, media relations for New Frontier Data, a cannabis data analysts firm, said. The New York State Cannabis Market Projections estimate revenue, if recreational use is legalized in 2020, to be $519.3 million.
The opening of the apothecary store comes at a precarious time after Suffolk County legislatures met March 5th in Riverhead to propose a bill to allow towns to preemptively opt out of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act, which would legalize recreational sale and use of cannabis.
“The governor wanted it done by April 1st,” Suffolk County legislator Rob Trotta, who proposed the opt-out bill, said. “I don’t want to force this in the first three months of the year. Let’s take it slow. There’s a lot of variables.”
The opt out proposal would allow towns and villages with a population exceeding 100,000 to decline the sale of recreational marijuana within their jurisdiction upon it being legalized. In the document, marijuana product is defined as any substance derived from or containing marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinol.
“If we opt-out in Suffolk County, we are only hurting ourselves and helping criminals here,” Jamas Tran, a molecular pharmacology graduate student at Brown University, said at the meeting. “The black market will explode”.
“[The ban is] only going to be temporary because the amount of money that could be generated, all the towns need,” Craig Zaffe, owner of CBD Oils of Long Island, said. “What they’re setting in motion now is very restrictive zoning laws but over time that is going to loosen up. You can’t stop the green movement; our whole country is broke. They need to bring in tax revenue.”
The Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which was added to the United States Farm Bill on December 20, was a major breakthrough for hemp farmers as it declassified hemp from a controlled substance to an agricultural commodity, allowing it to become a source of income for businesses.
“Inadvertently if they pass the bill in this form it could have unintended consequences on what I’m doing,” Falkowski said.
“We do hemp farming typically in the summer so this wasn’t even on my radar,” Paulette Satur, co-owner of Satur Farms in Cutchogue, said. The farm started growing hemp two years ago with a focus on industrial usage more than medicinal.
“While we don’t explicitly grow our baby leaf hemp for medical usage, if this ban makes the process too complicated we’ll probably drop the project entirely,” she said.
The issue will be resumed at a Suffolk County public meeting March 26 in Hauppauge.