Of New York State’s first 52 licenses issued for adult recreational cannabis cultivation, one will be going to a North Fork business.
Plant Connection, a nursery on Sound Avenue in Riverhead, was one of just three Suffolk County growers to be awarded a license in the first round of licensing from the state’s Office of Cannabis Management.
“I’ve been around the nursery business all my life and with this company for 22 years, so this seemed like the thing to do,” said Plant Connection co-owner Anthony Caggiano, who along with his wife Melissa also owns the nearby Jamesport Farm Brewery.
Mr. Caggiano said he believes his company’s experience growing both hops and hemp — which they did for three years — made them an attractive candidate to receive a marijuana cultivation license. He said the other two area companies selected, Route 27 Hopyard in East Moriches and East End Flower Farm in Shirley, have also grown those two crops.
“Growing hops is closely related and hemp is very closely related,” Mr. Caggiano said.
The local grower is optimistic that the marijuana market will turn out to be far more fruitful than hemp was for his nursery. He said that while he planted more than 25 acres of hemp and had successful harvests, he ultimately scaled it back after realizing there wasn’t much of a market for the plant.
With marijuana, Plant Connection will be starting off with a small crop this year and looking to scale up as the market takes shape. Processing and retail licenses are yet to be awarded.
Mr. Caggiano said he once envisioned also having a retail marijuana operation, but the state program prohibits cultivators from also obtaining a retail license. Considering his existing business commitments, he’s fine with that.
“We have so much going on with the brewery,” he said. “We’re planting barley and the hops field.”
Governor Kathy Hochul said more than 150 applicants sought to be among the first to obtain growing licenses. The process included submitting site plans, security proposals and a $2,000 application fee.
The next step for Plant Connection is to undergo a more intensive review of that site plan and to reinforce its proposed security measures. Security is a big part of the process and Mr. Caggiano said in addition to video monitoring, guards will remain on site 24 hours a day.