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Mohawk Valley’s Growing Cannabis Industry

by Cheyenne Dorsagno

Now that cannabis is legal in New York, it will be increasingly incorporated into daily life. Every facet of our culture will be impacted.

Meanwhile, there are various local manifestations of cannabis culture, trailblazing its normalization.

Fulton-Montgomery Community College offers a Certificate in Cannabis Cultivation to prepare students to join the workforce; they cite local cannabis employers like Veterans Hemp Market, PharmaCannis, Exit 29, and CuraLeaf. ACE Venture Enterprises, Inc. pledged a $20 million investment as part of an acquisition plan for a medical marijuana dispensary chain, Vireo Health of Johnstown.

In Oneida County alone, consider the CNY Good Times’ Bleecker Street event in Utica, the Sunnyside Medical Cannabis Dispensary in New Hartford, the cannabis-themed restaurant Toka Bocca in Herkimer, etc.

Only one location followed through on our outreach attempt. Exit 31 Exotic. As stated on their website, “Utica’s First Licensed Cannabis Dispensary” and their Facebook states, “Downtown Utica’s First Ever Recreational Use Dispensary.”

An eighth would run you $20.35-$55.75. They even offer free delivery! They would have to, since they’re competing with a longstanding tradition of home delivery by portable storefronts. In other words, you’re used to your dealer delivering.

Exit 31 Exotic’s General Manager, Dylan Bellinger, said that they have been well received.

This acceptance has undoubtedly been prompted by New York’s 2021 legalization of adult recreational cannabis use.

After, every Oneida County municipality voted on authorization to host dispensaries and consumption sites. 34/45 localities opted in (Rockefeller Institute of Government). Some of those that said “no” include the city of Sherrill, the town of Boonville, and the village of Camden.

Cannabis Tours, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Cannabis Tours, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Although cannabis will become commonplace, there’s still a twinge of this not feeling quite right. Lasting shame and federal anxiety. Even now, some people see cannabis legalization as a plague of locusts forewarning the end-times. Yes, this has been a surprising change. But America is still a far cry from Amsterdam’s cannabis culture of vending machines with edibles and coffee shops with joints.

NBC Press department, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

NBC Press department, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Another local forewarning of this “new normal” is through cannabis use in even the most unexpected places. One anonymous educator, 30, grows cannabis from home and fosters our youth while under the influence.

“I definitely identify as a functional stoner,” she said. “[The word] stoner has this negative connotation of not contributing to society.”

Cannabis can now be associated with productivity as we see cannabis businesses popping up. Dylan commented on the reward of growing Exit 31 Exotic: “You do all the work and get to see it come to life.”

Anon also sees cannabis as a symbol of productivity.

“[Cannabis] helps me do day-to-day things. It helps me with teaching, my friendships, eating. I mean, it literally helps me exist.”

She uses about 1.75 grams of cannabis per day across 5-10 sessions, often starting her day by smoking a joint.

“I don’t match up with the stoner stereotype, but … I think Seth Rogan and I could go toe-to-toe.”

Other than working in the school system, being a mom defines her.

She only smokes in her garage to keep it separate from her child, age two. But, she said, “I do not hide it … this is what adults do to relax … mommy and daddy use it mindfully.”

Further explaining how she will raise her daughter around it, she said, “I’ll kinda treat it like alcohol. You can’t have any until you’re old enough.”

“I really, really just want to teach her that it’s not a scary thing … teaching her how to grow it, I think, is gonna be important.”

Rotbuche, Cannabis growing, via Wikimedia Commons

Rotbuche, Cannabis growing, via Wikimedia Commons

New Yorkers age 21 and over can grow six plants max in their home – for personal use (New York Office of Cannabis Management).

But “it’s very, very difficult to grow,” she said.

Thankfully, this skill speaks to her husband’s best qualities. He’s organized and scientific, so he’s fulfilled by cultivating cannabis.

But if you don’t have the intention of studying and growing marijuana yourself, you can now feel safe by purchasing regulated products from qualified salespeople. The in-store Bud Tenders at Exit 31 Exotic, for example, have undergone training and tried the products in order to advise patrons on the best option to help them feel a desired symptom – like increased creativity, relaxation, or energy.

“There’s something for everybody,” said Dylan.

Bart Everson from New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Bart Everson from New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Cannabis also supports people’s health.

Anon said that cannabis has been a “medicinal helper” for her OCD in tandem with SSRI medication. Cannabis makes her “a lot more organized and grounded.”

But, she’s felt that some people regard her cannabis use as being at odds with her being a good mother. There are high expectations about how to fill this role, and there seems to be total disregard for the mother’s individuality.

“No matter what you choose, you’re wrong,” she said.

She does agree that the baby comes first, but it’s also important for moms to take care of themselves.

“It affects your body to be stressed,” Anon said.

It’s practically common sense now. Stress can have physical consequences, from high blood pressure to cancer. But a parent’s stress can also adversely impact their children, from fetal development to behavioral dysfunction (Psychology Today).

Unprecedented times… considering how cannabis can be a powerful tool in good parenting.

Those who use cannabis for medicinal purposes can pave the way for people who want to use cannabis for recreational purposes.

“I don’t think that medicinal and fun have to be mutually exclusive,” said Anon.

The Daily Sentinel relayed a message from the grand opening of Exit 31 Exotic. Mayor Michael Galime was in attendance, and he said, “Now this ‘first’ isn’t going to go without conversation, it’s not going to go without changing opinions, and it’s not going to go without us all working together to break barriers and truly change the opinions of society today. We’re all going to have to work together to do that.”

Anon has advice for “canna-moms” like her: “Find your tribe. There’s so many people like us.”

About Cheyenne Dorsagno

Cheyenne Dorsagno

Cheyenne Dorsagno

Cheyenne Dorsagno is an Italian-American born and raised in underdog Utica, NY. She studied English at SUNY Oneonta with a minor in Professional Writing and an Editor-in-Chief role at the newspaper. Currently, Cheyenne strives to make our big world a little smaller by introducing locals to their neighbors via human-interest pieces shared on her blog, Our Neighborhood. She’s pursuing creative writing in her free time and various freelance writing in her professional time, such as by copy-writing.

Cheyenne Dorsagno

Contributing Author

Cheyenne Dorsagno is a wonderfully talented writer and contributing author on Mohawk Valley Today. Cheyenne highlights artists and creatives along with culture and trends that are happening throughout the Mohawk Valley. She brings her positive energy to everything she does.

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