Jim Castetter, Empire Standard's sales director, shows off CBD flowers the company sells in Binghamton, New York on April 13, 2021
Kaelan Castetter has plans for the unusual offices next to his factory: all 35,000 square feet of which will be used to grow marijuana, which has just become legal for recreational use in New York State.
"We're going to build a state-of-the-art, world-class genetics and cultivation facility along with our finished product manufacturing facility," said Castetter, whose company Empire Standard has been making products containing already legal cannabidiol (CBD) since last year in a facility in Binghamton that he is now expanding would like to.
The company manufactures and sells oils, ointments, smoke, gums, and beverages that contain CBD, a cannabis substance valued for its relaxing properties that Congress had grown in 2018.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, is illegal nationwide, but a number of US states have given its recreational use a green light.
The governor of New York signed a bill last month allowing its possession and use by adults aged 21 and over, expanding its distribution for medical purposes.
This allows companies like Empire Standard who are already familiar with growing cannabis for use in CBD to sell products with high levels of THC.
"How many times do you have the chance of being in an established market with a product that wasn't allowed to be sold? It's not once in a lifetime," said Jim Castetter, the company's sales director.
Empire Standard CEO Kaelan Castetter rented new office space for the company after New York State legalized marijuana
On the assembly line at the Binghamton factory, about three hours from New York City, Jim, Kaelan Castetter's father, watches as workers in white lab coats assemble small boxes of CBD flowers.
The 55-year-old is a pioneer in the New York cannabis industry, having been involved in several more or less legal business ventures over the years.
He sees legalization as a historic opportunity.
"It is this change in the generations, this change in mindset, the change in the political structure that we have now reached a point where everyone is saying, 'This is not a big deal'", he said.
There has never been such strong support among Americans for legalization: 68 percent of respondents in a Gallup poll conducted late last year are in favor, compared to less than half a decade earlier.
Kaelan Castetter believes New York should be a marijuana mecca on par with California, the most populous state in the country, which legalized its recreational use in 2016 through a voter-approved election.
"This cannot be a better time for New York to legalize adult cannabis and create an industry that has pumped 30,000 or 50,000 jobs and billions of dollars into the economy," he said.
An Empire Standard employee assembles bottles of CBD oil at their factory in Binghamton, New York on April 13, 2021
Along the road
With the expanded factory, the 24-year-old plans to increase his workforce from 15 to more than 100 employees.
However, the economic benefits of legalization may not be felt immediately.
In order to produce, distribute or sell cannabis, professionals need a business license issued by a state commission currently in place.
"I think we'll see licenses by the end of this year, that would be the earliest, and that's like putting a jetpack on and all the systems working," said Cristina Buccola, an industry attorney from New York.
Recreational cannabis is now legal in 16 states and the capital, Washington, but remains federally banned, meaning people who use it could still have problems under federal law.
"In the encounters between the state and the federal government, the federal government almost always wins," said Buccola.
Proponents of statewide legalization have taken New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who leads the Democratic majority in the Senate and who has spoken out in favor of federal legalization, to heart.
Empire Standard's line of CBD products
New York law differs from other American states in its focus on social justice.
The bill would channel a portion of the estimated $ 350 million annual tax revenue from cannabis sales to communities hardest hit by drug enforcement in the United States, particularly blacks and Latinos.
The criminal records of those convicted of illegal cannabis possession will be cleared, and half of the business licenses will be reserved for minorities, women-owned businesses, wounded ex-military personnel, or disaster stricken farmers.
"New York has set these priorities in legislation, but they need to prevail and create an industry that is truly accessible to everyone," said Kaelan Castetter.
New York is the youngest state to legalize recreational marijuana
© 2021 AFP
New York Set to Become America's Next Marijuana Hub (April 25, 2021)
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