This is part of a Syracuse University student-driven reporting project through the NewsHouse website that is being published in USA TODAY Network. It takes a deep look at marijuana issues in New York as the state’s drug laws remain in flux.
George Knarich can easily recall the time police officers busted him for growing illegal pot in his backyard.
Fast forward four years, and Knarich now has the government’s blessing to grow as much hemp as he can plant on his 20-acre farm in Mount Vision, which is near Oneonta in central New York
The Knarich Family Farm is among more than 400 hemp producers in New York authorized to grow low-THC cannabis crops because of the federal 2018 Farm Bill.
The farm played host last October to the 22nd annual New York Harvest Festival and Freedom Fair.
Led by festival director and 30-year marijuana activist Rob Robinson, dozens of attendees paraded up the road to Knarich’s hemp field and hand harvested the crop at “high noon” on the festival’s second day.
For many among the estimated 1,200 in attendance, gathering on a legal hemp farm for the first time in the festival’s two decades represented progress in the movement to destigmatize cannabis.
“We’re getting high in New York,” Robinson told the enthusiastic crowd when announcing a 4:20 p.m. cannabis cup for the next day, during which judges would choose the top cannabis products.
Robinson said there was a time he wouldn’t openly advertise the recreational marijuana competition, but now he wasn’t scared.
“The government and the media used to call us the counter culture,” he said. “There’s nothing counter of this culture.
“This culture is the American culture – as American as apple pie.”