| Times Herald-Record
Legalizing recreational marijuana will swiftly add hundreds of good-paying jobs, with room for significant growth, and much-needed tax revenue to the Mid Hudson, local cannabis growers said last week, , after Gov. Andrew Cuomo refloated the idea.
Cuomo, who opposed recreational marijuana until December 2018, reiterated support for state legalization recently.
He said doing so could create jobs and generate $300 million-plus in tax revenue.
The governor addressed the topic in his recent State of the State address-related news releases and speeches.
Local cannabis industry participants’ enthusiasm for Cuomo’s proposal comes as Green Thumb Industries, a Chicago-based, publicly traded, national producer and retailer of cannabis goods, announced plans Thursday for a $150 million production facility in Warwick.
Few areas stand to benefit more than the Mid Hudson, local cannabis industry participants say. Orange County in particular is a hotbed of hemp or cannabis production – the same plant as marijuana except it’s bred to contain 0.3 percent or less of THC (one of pot’s key high-producing chemicals).
Orange County’s budding cannabis industry is thanks in part to millions of dollars in investments from the Orange County Industrial Development Agency’s Accelerator incubator, which has earned the area statewide and national attention.
Hemp, however, including extracts like the medically promising chemical CBD, has yet to pay off for locals due to over-production and the industry’s nascent status.
“If marijuana gets approved, struggling farmers who’ve paid their dues, and put in years of manual labor, will finally see a crop that’s bringing in real money to their families and their farms,” said Michael Geraci, co-owner of Hemp Farms of New York in New Windsor, one of the region’s leading hemp extracts producers.
Cannabis facility proposed for Warwick
For its part, the Orange County IDA, a nonprofit public benefit corporation that encourages economic development, put its cannabis business cluster at the former Mid-Orange Correctional Facility site in Warwick.
It’s home to four hemp-related businesses, including UrbanXtracts, a CBD oil extractor, Honey Buzz, which infuses CBD into personal care products, and Phyto-Farma Labs, a cannabis tester.
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Separately, medicinal cannabis maker Citiva Medical LLC also has large facilities on the prison grounds, and Hempire State Growers and Fusion CBD are leading local producers in Milton and the Warwick area respectively.
Green Thumb Industries expressed interest on Jan. 14 in buying the last seven available prison site lots (totaling 40 acres) for a three-year phased project for its cannabis facility, which would employ 125. The Orange County IDA’s board is currently considering potential economic incentives to facilitate the project.
The potential project “is huge for our town and for our region,” said Warwick Supervisor Michael Sweeton, who helps oversee the Warwick Valley Local Development Corporation, a nonprofit that owns the former prison site. Green Thumb Industries is “an exceptional quality company that could provide many, many jobs in Warwick. It’s the capstone of the whole effort that we’ve taken to redevelop this site.”
Green Thumb Industries, a 6-year-old firm, currently has 13 manufacturing facilities, 97 licensed retail facilities and operations in 12 U.S. markets, plus 2,300 employees. It also appears to be well-capitalized, with third-quarter revenue that grew 131 percent year-over-year to $157.1 million.
Recreational marijuana “is a whole new industry that, depending on the licensure and (tax and regulatory) structure (the state creates), could be totally transformational for the area,” said Laurie Villasuso, Orange County IDA’s CEO. “The supply chain is all here. We can have agricultural impacts, manufacturing, sales.”