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Senator: Colleges Seeing Interest In Pot, Hemp Farming

Legalization of marijuana in New York state is leading to added interest in some colleges’ agricultural programs.

During discussion earlier this week of a loan forgiveness program for young farmers by the state Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Liz Krueger, D-New York City, discuss the increased interest with state Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay. Borrello has been a vocal critic of the marijuana legalization program, particularly the lack of state funding for drug recognition experts.

“I don’t know how you’ll cope with this George, but I’ve heard from several upstate colleges there is a lot of interest in agriculture by young people in cannabis and hemp,” Krueger said. “Now that we have new legal products for people to farm they have already voiced their interest in this career path. .. The farming community was and continues to be very interested in exploring opportunities with the products. It’s a good match with the young people.”

Borrello had been critical of the lack of funding for drug recognition experts as the legislation was discussed over the past few weeks. Drug recognition experts are police officers who use a 12-step evaluation process to identify the type of drug impacting a driver. There are about 343 drug recognition officers among 55,000 police officers statewide, he said. Borrello also said he was disappointed with rules that will allow those with past felony convictions to receive a license to sell marijuana, unlike liquor licenses that cannot be awarded to those with a felony conviction.

“Well, Liz, I’m a businessperson,” Borrello said in a joking banter with Krueger. “If it’s legal and its the next step for our agriculture, that’s fine.”

S.4082, sponsored by Sen. Michelle Hinchey, D-Kingston, and co-sponsored by Borrello, was passed 23-0 by the Finance Committee. The legislation amends Section 679-f of the state Education Law to remove the five-eighths requirement that eligible persons have graduated from college within the previous two years and is replaced with the qualification that a person must not have farmed for more than 10 consecutive years. The legislation passed the Senate in 2020 but did not pass in the state Assembly.

“I think it’s great that we would expand loan forgiveness for people that are going into agriculture and farming,” Borrello said. “We often talk about what can we do to keep our children here in New York state. This is a great thing to do exactly that. Agriculture is one of the most strained industries in New York and it’s still the top industry in New York. Therefore doing things like this to encourage young people especially to go into agriculture is going to help us on so many levels.”

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