The Cannabis Growers Showcase should become a permanent exhibit for cannabis tourists to The NY State Fair in Central New York!
I read about the Cannabis Growers Showcase in Syracuse through the Sticky Bits Report, Thanks Lauren! What caught my eye was that it was running alongside the New York State Fair! Recreational cannabis has been legal in New York state since 2021. But even in Canada, where cannabis is federally legal, cannabis events are still treated like the prohibition era.
A cannabis showcase being part of a public event featuring other agricultural industries is a significant win for normalizing cannabis consumption and destigmatizing the industry. I had to check it out! So, I packed the car and drove across the border to catch the last day of the Cannabis Growers Showcase (CGS) at the Great New York State Fair!
Why The Cannabis Growers Showcase (CGS) Exists
New York made history this year by permitting the sale of cannabis at locally sanctioned event locations, making it the first in the US. However, NY has had many legislative hold-ups since legalization in rolling out its dispensary permits. The evident shortage of legal shops has significantly impacted cannabis cultivators across the state. The GSC initiative was launched by the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) to create a regulated space for licensed cannabis cultivators and processors "to reach consumers directly" in an effort to support the industry, particularly growers with surplus inventory from previous seasons. Unfortunately, this initiative from the OCM is a temporary measure to aid farmers until January 1, 2024.
I'm hoping the State Fair Showcase happens annually! Meeting the cannabis farmers of NY was a fantastic experience for this Canadian cannabis tourist.
I knew the showcase was a short distance from the fairgrounds, and my 6$ entry ticket to the State Fair included admission to the showcase and access to the shuttle service from the fairground parking lot to the venue and back all day.
After the 5-minute bus ride blasting AC and hot jams, I arrived at a festively decorated warehouse with a smoking area and food truck. The warehouse had about 15 tables featuring the farms of NY and big signs for Syracuse's downtown dispensary, Flynnstoned Cannabis Company, which organized the event and buses and facilitated the retail portion of the showcase.
Upon entry, I was handed a paper menu that featured only the brands in attendance. All their products were available to buy at the venue for anyone 21+. There was a lot of variety and some big-name cultivars that I was keen to check out. What's cool is that as visitors went from table to table, if they saw something they were interested in purchasing, the reps could circle the items on the menu for easier checkout. I wish every event did this. After a big expo, keeping track of the ones that stand out is challenging; plus, buying weed at an expo is awesome.
If you needed a reason to explore NY's rec market, don't forget that there is only a 10mgTHC limit per products, so many high-dose options were available. There were also fantastic organic sun-grown flowers from regenerative farms, exciting infused drinks, tinctures, and edibles showcased by the actual farmers growing the products, not just reps! Meeting the growers was a definite highlight—authentic and genuine people passionate about their craft.
Venturing through the warehouse, I enjoyed chatting with Tim Moshier of B30 Farms in Fulton, NY. He had samples of the popular Cinderella 99 strain he cultivates using regenerative farming methods. "Grown as nature intended," says Tim's. Other brands that stood out were Ananda Farms, Raven's View Genetics, and Bison Botanics, truly showcasing the diversity and quality of New York's cannabis industry.
Many conversations circled back to the current challenges in the industry, particularly the struggles caused by government overreach. Sound familiar? On both sides of the border, the struggle is real.
Areas for Improvement
Gotta say, the showcase lacked some pizazz. Maybe it's because i went on the last day. but there wasn't much happening. A bit of live music and a more aesthetically pleasing smoking area could have enhanced the experience.
Weirdly, I've been to many state fairs, and I was hoping that the CGS would emulate other agricultural showcases with some products on display with ribbons for winning different categories (Think of those hanging quilts and table settings with first-place ribbons). Like best flower arrangement, best nug, maybe even glassware? I just expected more "fair" energy.
The State Fair Experience
I hopped on the bus back to the main fairgrounds and surrendered to nostalgic Americana — foot-long franks, freshly squeezed lemonade, and Dippin Dots. I also experienced one of the Fair's most celebrated exhibits, an 800lb butter sculpture in the "Dairy Building." (Picture a room full of Americans drinking big cups of milk on a ridiculously hot day.) To my absolute delight, this year's sculpture was a FREIGHT TRAIN. As a train enthusiast, my eyes lit up at the majestic sculpture made entirely of butter, spinning slowly behind the glass. It had Rail Road signs, a locomotive, boxcars, and even a hobo hanging out the back clutching a stick of butter.
It was glorious.
The Double Standard
I want to celebrate that cannabis was part of the NY State Fair. It is a big step towards destigmatizing the industry, but the reality is that the Showcase was still physically segregated from the main event and located down the road. As far as I could tell, it was the only off-site exhibit. Meanwhile, the fairgrounds had MANY beer tents and alcoholic options. I will acknowledge that the fairgrounds were "smoke-free," but there could have been a canna-beverage bar or a 21+ tent for cannabis shoppers instead of the warehouse down the road. Cannabis can be included in events more holistically. These prohibition-esque regulations on cannabis are a massive hinderance for cannabis tourism.
Final Thoughts as a Cannabis Tourist
The NY State Fair was the perfect way to spend the last days of summer in Syracuse. The cannabis community came together to show their dedication and commitment to advancing the industry despite the challenges posed by current laws in the state. I hope these craft cultivators can survive.
The Cannabis Growers Showcase should become a permanent Great NY State Fair exhibit. Aside from destigmatizing consumption, cannabis is agricultural, and cannabis farmers should be welcomed at agricultural events! It creates an opportunity to normalize cannabis and facilitate conversations with people who are new to the plant. Its the same as people learning how to milk a cow in the Dairy building! And next year, there should be an 800lb hash sculpture of a freight train.
Thanks for a good time, Syracuse! Shout out to Tim at B30 Farms, Flynnstoned Co, the hot bus driver, and Dairy Farmers of America. The pink THC NYC Shirt is from The Higher Calling. 0331 is the date Cannabis was legalized in NY, March 31, 2021. Also a super special thanks to my friends AC and Issac at Cohosh Creek Herb Farm and Sanctuary for hosting me on their gorgeous property in CNY. Listen to their podcast @plantcunning!