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Increased rain due to climate change puts a damper on blossoming New York hemp business

Jennifer Martin / Wikimedia Commons

New York farmers have been growing cannabis for several years now. One of the challenges they face moving forward is a changing climate.

Allan Gendlemen has been growing hemp for four years. One thing he’s learned — cannabis does not like water. And with all the rain over this past summer spurred by a changing climate, he lost one of his six acres.

"This was full of hemp plants. It went from here all the way down. This whole thing got completely flooded and the plants literally just died. And so now, this is empty field," Gendlemen said.

Larry Smart, a professor studying hemp at Cornell University’s school of integrative plant science, said New York growers can prepare for wet years.

“The only thing we're going to have to mitigate is these extreme rain events that lead to flooding,” Smart said.

Smart believes ultimately the best option may be for farmers to grow indoors or in big covered outdoor tunnels.

And Gendlemen recognizes that, too, but he’d rather keep his plants outside. He said otherwise he’s just contributing to climate change.

“The downside of greenhouses is you need a lot of electricity for ventilation and also they're made of plastic and metal which, plastic comes from fossil fuels so now it's even less sustainable,” Gendlemen said.

Gendlemen said he’s not discouraged, though. And with New York legalizing adult-use cannabis, he plans to start growing high THC plants… as long as the rain holds off.