‘Our crops are more or less deteriorating:’ Farmers frustrated with the rate the Cannabis industry is growing in WNY

GENESEE COUNTY, N.Y. (WIVB) — The cannabis industry across the state is just starting to bud, but unfortunately for growers like Justin Merkel, it’s not growing fast enough.

“It’s been a real tough thing, even for us. I consider myself a decent business man and it’s been hard,” Merkel said.

Merkel owns Starlit 420, in Genesee County and grows marijuana plants. He grew hundreds of pounds of marijuana last year, but there’s not many retail places in WNY where he can sell it.

“That’s been one of the toughest hurdles throughout this, the fact that our crops are more or less deteriorating at this point and losing value really kind of hurts us,” Merkel said.

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On April 3, people across the state started receiving their CAURD license to sell adult-use cannabis. Since then, only a handful of dispensaries have actually opened, mostly downstate. Merkel says growers are worried their crops will be worthless by the time those with their CAURD license finally open cannabis dispensaries in Western New York.

“After a certain amount of time it’s not going to be worth processing,” he said. “It’s not going to be worth making the hashes. It’s not going to be worth selling to the consumer and giving your business a bad name. At that point it’s a complete wash.”

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While growers wait for more dispensaries to start opening, they’re asking lawmakers to allow them to sell their own product so they don’t lose any more money.

“I feel if there’s a way to put this back in the growers hands for now where we’re allowed to retail through a farm-stand or through our own local deliveries,” he said. “To get rid of last summer’s crop at still a wholesale rate but to the consumer, then we’ll have the rates to evolve and get fresh crops.” 

Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.

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