Marcos Ribeiro of Shirley and his wife Kathleen Long-Ribeiro, holding...

Marcos Ribeiro of Shirley and his wife Kathleen Long-Ribeiro, holding their 17-month-old daughter Evelyn, inside their backyard greenhouse where they grow vegetables for their family. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

Three East End agricultural businesses received state licenses to start growing cannabis this spring. 

The state Cannabis Control Board, which oversees marijuana and hemp policy, voted last week to award "conditional" licenses for cultivating recreational pot to 52 farms, including the regional firms East End Flower Farm Ltd., Plant Connection Inc. and Route 27 Hopyard LLC. Conditional licenses are only available to farmers with experience growing hemp — a plant that comes from the same species as marijuana, but contains less of the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) compound that produces a high.

The three regional businesses are the first authorized to grow cannabis on the Island, except for Manhattan-based Columbia Care, which established a greenhouse in Riverhead to serve the medical marijuana industry. The conditional license will allow the firms to grow cannabis for two years and manufacture and distribute the flower — which is dense with THC — until June 2023, regulators said. 

East End Flower Farm Ltd., which grows sunflowers in several locations across Suffolk County, will be cultivating one acre, which is the maximum amount of cannabis permitted outside, owner Marcos Ribeiro said.

He praised the state for limiting how much the first batch of growers can cultivate, which he believes will prevent large firms from dominating the new industry.

"We farm over 100 acres a year," said Ribeiro, who runs the business with his wife, Kathleen Long-Ribeiro. "One acre is not going to really change much."

Ribeiro said he’s assessing which of his locations will be best suited for cannabis. He aims to plant the product in mid-May.

“I still don’t believe it," Ribeiro said of getting the license. “I’m starting to get out of the shock and put together a game plan.”

Route 27 Hopyard, a 12-acre farm in Moriches, will grow the same volume of hops and hemp it always does this spring, as well as cultivate cannabis outside and in energy-efficient, LED-lit greenhouses, said Ryan Andoos, who owns the business with partner, Mark Carroll. 

Route 27 Hopyard began six years ago by growing hops for the craft beer industry. In 2019, the farm began cultivating hemp — which is in the same family as hop plants — for cannabidiol (CBD) products, Andoos said.


He envisions Route 27 Hopyard eventually expanding its team of two employees. This would accompany investment in more greenhouse space, which allows for year-round cultivation and tends to speed up growth time and improve plant quality.

"We're self-funding everything," Andoos said, noting that many banks won't work with cannabis businesses since the substance is not legal at the federal level.

"We just have to get through this first year and see how this thing rolls out," said Andoos, chair of the Long Island region for the New York State Cannabis Growers and Processors Association trade group. "But we definitely want to grow the company."

Other regional businesses may join their ranks. State regulators received a total of 150 applications for the conditional licenses and will review submissions on an ongoing basis, a news release said.

The state aims to issue proposed rules by the end of May for every type of business and license that will be involved in the recreational marijuana industry.

Regulators previously released plans for conditional retail licenses, which would allow New Yorkers with business experience who were convicted of a cannabis-related offense — or are related to someone who was — to open by the end of 2022. 

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