There’s a new kid on the block that grows taller than the average American and produces flowers that are funky or fragrant, depending on your opinion. What is it? It’s cannabis, and it just became legal for many uses in New York State.

29 Design Studio has kept up with hemp, one part of the cannabis industry, over the past few years. It helps that we’re located in Geneva, New York, where Cornell Agritech has been a center for hemp research. We’ve written about Industrial Hemp for LOCATE Finger Lakes Business Journal, and discussed cannabis product development at the Finger Lakes Craft Beverage Conference

A quick note on industry terms: “Cannabis” is the overarching industry name. “Hemp” refers to CBD-dominant cannabis and “marijuana” refers to THC-dominant cannabis.

“It wasn’t until 2019 when I saw fields of hemp growing during Cornell AgriTech’s Hemp Field Days that I realized what a big deal legalizing the industry was going to be,” said Pilar McKay, 29 Design Studio’s Senior Marketing Strategist. “It will open up an entirely new market – something very historic for the New York State economy.”

Certain varieties of cannabis are intended for human consumption. Large corporations like Finger Lakes-based Constellation Brands have embraced the cannabis market through investments in Canopy Growth. These moves have boosted confidence in cannabis products. 

Different varieties of cannabis are grown for various uses, including fiber, grain, CBD and THC. For new companies who want to start exploring opportunities in the hemp industry, we’re excited to see developments in consumable and construction products and even the possibility of future cultivation at home. 

Consumables

Inside hemp flowers are compounds that can be distilled and added to foods and beverages. As New York State begins to build out its policies around hemp, we’ll follow the fluctuating regulatory frameworks around adding hemp extracts to consumables.

In Geneva, New York, Cirona Labs is developing hemp extracts for beverages and other products. Our Founder + CEO Maureen Ballatori spoke with Cirona’s CEO + Founder Hunter Friedland at the 2021 Finger Lakes Craft Beverage Conference. 

“What Hunter and his team are doing to create water-soluble microemulsions for ingredients like CBD is really innovative. Talking to Hunter at the conference made it clear how important science and regulatory rules are to product development because those water-soluble CBD powders can only be used in certain beverages right now,” said Maureen.

Large and small beverage manufacturers are interested in adding hemp to their beverages. But right now, alcoholic drinks that include hemp products are not allowed legally in New York State.

Adult Use of THC-dominant marijuana is one of the more widely known methods for consuming cannabis. With Adult Use consumption of marijuana now legal in New York State, we’ll see Cities and Towns evaluating their local laws with respect to cannabis businesses.

With all cannabis now legal in New York state, the main question will be how regulatory frameworks will help small businesses in the craft cannabis space. Businesses like Rochester, NY-based FLWR CITY and others with smokeable products may have limited resources and excellent products, so policy will be critical to their development and growth. 

Construction

You may have picked up a compressed fiberboard for a home construction project. Did you know that companies are investigating opportunities to compress industrial hemp to build dense fiberboard?

Hempitecture, a company based in Idaho, is even taking hemp to the next level. They have developed HempWool®, which serves as home insulation to replace fiberglass. They’re also making HempCrete, which incorporates fibrous hemp into concrete. 

Sustainability architecture is a new frontier for organic materials. Hemp’s natural strengths can make it a key player in construction applications.

Cultivation

Looking for a lovely shrub to add to your garden? How about hemp? You read that right. We predict there will be another new developing market for hemp, and it’s in home gardens. 

The New York State bedding and garden plant industry was $145 million in the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture. Now that hemp is legal, why not add it alongside popular ornamental plants?

The main hurdle for some home gardeners may be hemp’s dank reputation. That’s why plant breeders should be encouraged to develop cultivators to highlight foliage and serve as an effective annual shrub. This market is virtually untapped and could be an area of growth for garden nurseries. Sound far-fetched? Check out flowering tobacco.

For others who are considering raising the plant for Adult Use consumption, these cannabis strains already exist. Even with legal limits to grow your own cannabis at home, this area could see considerable growth with changing state and federal regulations.

Economic Development

While deregulation of cannabis happened overnight with legislation in New York State, the impact of opening up the industry will ripple on for years to come. New York will need new jobs in retail, agronomy, manufacturing and cultivation. 

Finger Lakes Community College was ahead of the curve by developing their Cannabis Biology and Cultivation Track within their Horticulture program. This groundbreaking program will prepare individuals for careers in growing hemp, maybe even inspiring some students to start farms.

Researchers at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, NY, involved in the Cornell Hemp Program, work on end-to-end solutions from plant science and breeding to product and market development. 

Business plans for companies who extract hemp compounds, manufacture industrial hemp building material, or retail marijuana look very different. Each of these industries has different target markets, and in many cases – Adult Use consumables in particular – the audience is hungry for products.

What’s Next?

Hemp is an emerging industry unlike any other we’ve seen in generations. People cut down their cider trees and hops during Prohibition, which was only law for thirteen years. Cannabis was criminalized over 80 years ago in the United States. Troves of scientific and cultural information were destroyed that will need to be replaced.

Emerging industries have potential, and that’s why the buzziest ones fill quickly with new businesses. We see a crowded marketplace in the future for cannabis products, but with a frequently changing industry of regulations at the state and federal levels, cannabis startups will need to move fast to keep up. 

Strong branding and marketing for your products will be essential for racing past the competition. Developing creative work focused on your target market is what we do for food, beverage and agriculture businesses. Contact us to talk about your new business goals and how we can help you reach them.