Hey bud: If you want to buy smokeable CBD in New York, you may be out of luck

It’s illegal in New York, for now at least, to buy some cannabis flower (buds), roll it into a cigarette and smoke it.

That, of course, primarily refers to marijuana. Efforts to legalize recreational adult use of weed is back on the agenda in Albany for 2021, after failing the past two years.

But what about buying and smoking buds of the other cannabis — hemp? It provides the popular extract, CBD, which advocates say reduces anxiety and offers other benefits. But it has less than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive agent that creates the marijuana “high.”

Hemp buds or flower, and sometimes even pre-rolled “joints,” have been offered for sale at shops around the state for several years, although the legality of that has been a bit hazy.

New state rules proposed this week for the growing, processing and use of hemp and its byproducts specifically ban the sale of hemp flower. They also prohibit sale of any forms of hemp/CBD that could be smoked (although they do allow vaping products). After a 60-day comment period (see below), the new rules could take effect in January.

And while many in the state’s growing cannabis industry applaud most of the new rules, they are unhappy with the state Department of Health’s stance on hemp flower.

“It’s the most natural way to use CBD,” said Yardley Burgess Jr., owner of the Empire CBD shops in Central New York. “I get the standards and the rules, and we need them, but this doesn’t make much sense. This is our best-selling product.”

Advocates for the hemp/CBD industry also argue the ban on sale of fresh buds hurts the state’s 700 or so hemp farmers, especially the smaller growers. Many sell directly to customers and had hoped the new rules would allow them to expand their business to licensed retailers and shops.

One of those growers is Samir Mahadin, who owns Breathing Web Farms in Borodino, just south of Skaneateles, with his wife, Kristin Rocco. The farm produces organic products, including poultry, eggs, veggies and hemp.

In the past, he has sold hemp flower directly to customers via “word of mouth” and sometimes to retailers,

“It’s really the best product for profit-margins we have,” Mahadin said. “There’s a demand for it.”

Hemp in New York

A field of hemp plants at Breathing Web Farms in Borodino, south of Skaneateles. (Courtesy Breathing Web Farms).

Mahadin reduced the size of his hemp crop from 12 acres last year to just one this year because of the uncertainty over the new state regulations for hemp, which are intended to give New York the best-in-the-nation hemp standards.

But Mahadin had counted on growing more hemp and selling the flower to more stores and customers going forward. “That was a big part of our business plan,” he said.

Like Burgess, Mahadin argues the smoking of hemp flower is “most direct away to use it.”

“It’s below the legal threshold (less than 0.3% THC),” Mahadin…

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