In the three months since the New York State Cannabis Control Board began issuing “conditional cultivating” licenses, nine Suffolk County companies have been authorized to grow marijuana, including four located on the North Fork.
The most recent licensee is Peconic Growers LLC of Riverhead.
That company is headed by Bill Bianchi, a 91-year-old former New York State assemblyman who has been growing orchids in a 10-acre greenhouse on Doctors Path for the past 17 years.
Other licenses have gone to Plant Connection Inc. of Jamesport, Oregon Road Organics of Cutchogue and WJF Farms LLC, also of Cutchogue.
Mr. Bianchi said he never imagined he’d be growing cannabis in his 90s.
“No, I never did,” he said. “It was not something ever mentioned or talked about, at least where I lived. They didn’t known anything about it. But the ‘30s is long time ago.”
Mr. Bianchi was a state assemblyman from 1972 to 1994 and said that even in the Assembly, marijuana-related issues were rarely discussed.
But the thing he’s still best known for is orchids. And Mr. Bianchi said the cannabis will not impact his main business.
“That’s the staple,” he said. “I’ve been selling orchids all my life.”
His family began growing orchids in East Patchogue in 1972 and his father sold the business in 1990. He met his current business partner in 1998 in Patchogue and by 2004 they opened the business in Riverhead.
The state’s “conditional cultivating” licenses require a grower to immediately began issuing temporary adult-use cannabis after they’ve harvested hemp for at least two years.
Mr. Bianchi said he grew hemp for two years, and only went into cannabis because most of the hemp growers lost money. The state had not renewed the hemp licenses but told hemp growers it was setting up a marijuana industry, and anyone who’d had a hemp license for two years would be given a license to grown marijuana.
WJF Farms, one of the two licensed growers in Cutchogue is reportedly run by Jonathan Fabb, who also runs the other local operation, Oregon Road Organics, with Jennifer Digney-Bihm. The state Office of Cannabis Management lists WJF Farms LLC and Ms. Digney-Bihm as separate licensees.
Neither she nor Mr. Fabb returned calls seeking comment.
The Plant Connection , a nursery in Riverhead, was among the first of 52 companies statewide to receive a license to grow adult recreational cannabis.
“I’ve been around the nursery business all my life and with this company for 22 years, so this seemed like the thing to do,” co-owner Anthony Caggiano told the News-Review in April. Mr. Caggiano and his wife and co-owner, Melissa, also operate the Jamesport Farm Brewery.