The owner of a Moriches hemp farm says it won't make the neighborhood go to pot.
Ryan Andoos started growing hemp at his farm, Route 27 Hemp Yard, about six months ago after receiving authorization to join New York State's industrial hemp pilot program. It is one of 21 farms in Suffolk and Nassau counties allowed by the state to legally grow or process the crop.
Hemp and marijuana are varieties of the cannabis sativa species, but are different plants. Hemp has lower levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive chemical that makes marijuana users high.
Some neighbors of Andoos' 5-acre farm have complained that they get headaches from the hemp's pot-like smell. Local officials said the farm, where Andoos also grows hops to sell to craft beer producers, is not breaking any laws.
Andoos, 28, of Oceanside, acknowledged odors coming from his farm, but he said the plants won't be grown most of the year. He said he is reaching the end of his four-month growing season and soon will harvest his plants. He plans to sell them to processors for use in cannabidiol, or CBD, products such as oils and creams.
"The smell starts in about July and goes through pretty much now," said Andoos, who invited a reporter to take a whiff of a hemp plant during a tour of the farm. "Yes, there's a smell but the smell is a lot better than it was."
At least one of the farm's neighbors wrote to Brookhaven Town officials asking them to crack down on the farm. The neighbor also said Andoos burned some plants earlier this year. Efforts to reach the neighbor were unsuccessful.
Andoos said he burned male plants once, in June, to limit pollination.
Town and county officials said they have no role in supervising hemp farms, which are regulated by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.
"As of today, New York State agriculture is saying he has the proper permits. But it is a state-level issue," County Legis. Rudy Sunderman (R-Shirley) said. “He did file a permit and he’s within his rights.”
The state's hemp program was begun in the wake of a 2014 federal law that allowed states to authorize pilot programs to develop the crop. In New York, hemp farmers, which the state calls "research partners," must apply to join the program and submit annual reports to the agriculture department.
Andoos said that in addition to CBD, hemp can be used in fiber and grain products such as rope, clothing and plastics. He said the crop's biggest problem is a "stigma" from years of being associated with marijuana; recreational pot use still is outlawed in New York.
"I love hops, and I'll always love hops, but the hemp came along and I said, 'Why not do both?' " he said. "The uses are endless. It's limitless. And the biggest thing is it doesn't have any effect on the environment. In fact, it's better for the environment."
He added the farm has a secondary benefit to the community, as a buffer against overdevelopment.
"It's going to protect the land forever," Andoos said. "Isn't that better than housing?"
Hemp farms have proliferated in New York since passage of a 2014 federal law authorizing pilot programs.
18: Suffolk farms allowed to grow or process hemp
3: Nassau farms permitted to grow or process hemp
490: Authorized hemp growers, statewide
118: Authorized hemp processors, statewide
Source: New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets