Behind the scenes of New York’s first legal container grow

Standing in the middle of a field of cannabis plants in eastern Columbia County, King Aswad said it was an honor to be part of New York’s first legal marijuana crop.

“It’s a privilege to be able to rest at night, not being afraid that my family will be torn apart for trying to feed my family,” he said.

Aswad and his partner, Jasmine Burems, moved to rural Bedford-Stuyvesant County in Brooklyn in 2015. At first, they didn’t even have a driver’s license.

But they wanted to cultivate. Burems had been a community herbalist and doula, while Aswad had been an actor and a yoga teacher, and they both cared deeply about health and “food sovereignty,” or people’s right to define agricultural systems, for example. opposition to systems developed by market forces.

As black farmers, they also wanted to correct the historical power imbalance in American agriculture, where white people profited from black labor during slavery and the sharecropping system.

They also love their harvest. Aswad said he could sometimes “smell the colors” as he sniffed different strains of marijuana as the couple fondly described their growing process.

The 13 marijuana strains at their Claudine Field Apothecary are grown biodynamically, Burems said, and include indicas and sativas with names like Blueberry Cupcakes and Platinum Girl Scout Cookies.

The couple planted 30 rows of plants with 55 plants each, which Burems says should yield over 1,500 pounds of marijuana. They plan to have 80% processed so they can be made into hashish and other marijuana products, with the remaining 20% ​​to be sold in their natural form.

Their first harvest was in 2018 when they grew hemp – low-THC cannabis that can be made into paper or fabric – which allowed them to grow recreational marijuana as part of the New York’s Seeing Opportunity initiative this year. Under the move, the crop will be sold at dispensaries owned and operated by former convicts of marijuana-related offenses, as part of the state’s plan to redress the imbalances created by the pot ban. .

It was wonderful to watch the journey of the cannabis plant, Aswad said, which until recently had to be “hidden, buried and smuggled”, and is now out in the open, fully legitimate.

The location of the farm is proof of that. Instead of being tucked away in the woods, it was near a town center, with the town hall just down the road.

The first stores, which will sell New York-grown marijuana, will open by the end of the year, according to Office of Cannabis Management executive director Christopher Alexander.

Aswad said marijuana users should still buy locally, even if marijuana from other states becomes available in New York. He believes the crop will eventually be federally legalized and that New York is gearing up to become a major producer of cash crops. Although other states were first to legalize, Aswad sees New York’s legalization as a major step.

“It’s not done until it’s done in New York,” he said.

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