Jun 02, 2021

Tristan Hujer, New York’s Recreational Cannabis Industry, Interview

Featuring: Tristan D. Hujer

A New York cannabis opportunity: businesses that are ‘almost like a craft brewery’

Could New York’s recreational cannabis industry look a lot like its craft brewery industry — with small producers across the state — in a few years? It’s possible.

Tristan Hujer, an attorney with Phillips Lytle who specializes in the cannabis industry, said one of the most exciting parts of the state’s new recreational marijuana legislation is the small business adult-use cooperative or microbusiness license.

The microbusiness license will allow the limited cultivation, processing, distribution and dispensing of a business’s own adult-use cannabis, similar to how craft breweries often grow hops to brew their beers. This type of license is expected to prioritize social and economic equity applicants, with a goal of 50%.

While there’s still a lot of unknowns in what the program will look like, we spoke with Hujer about some less talked about opportunities for businesses and what those interested in the industry can do now.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for people looking to get into the industry? My CBD clients who are involved in retail, they’re all going to try to get a dispensary license. It’s a logical transition for them. It’s highly regulated retail industry. I’m also seeing growers of hemp interested in now growing marijuana. Most of these businesses are going to have to be licensed unless you’re going to make packaging or transport the product. Another interesting business area is greenhouses — I think that those are going to be a really cool opportunity.

What’s an opportunity that you think isn’t talked about enough? There’s these microbusiness licenses, which will be very cool because it’s one of the only ways in New York that you’ll be able to have your hands in everything and you’re in your own shop — from growing the plant to getting it on the shelf. I think it’s going to adopt almost like a craft brewery look to it. Those are very exciting, new opportunities that we haven’t seen yet in other states. In California or Las Vegas or Colorado, you’re mostly seeing traditional dispensaries.

How are you preparing clients who are interested in the industry? In addition to giving legal advice, I try to help clients with their business strategy. This is an uncertain area and a lot of the people who are interested in this space don’t have prior experience with the cannabis industry or have very little experience. So they not only need legal advice, but they also could benefit from business advice. I try to understand their business plan better and what it is they’re seeking to do. I get calls a lot like, “I want to grow.” Well, let’s talk about that. I start asking them questions about why they want to grow. And at the end of the discussion, sometimes we’re there, or sometimes they decide they don’t want to grow it all. Instead they may want to be a dispenser or do some kind of on-premises consumption.