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Recreational marijuana deal gives new hope to South Buffalo marijuana site

Two years ago, a California-based company proposed to build a massive marijuana production and delivery site, when marijuana legalization appeared imminent.

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — When the New York State Senate and Assembly reconvene Tuesday, many eyes will be on whether lawmakers vote to legalize recreational use of marijuana for adults only.

Lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo say a deal to get this done has been agreed upon.

That's exciting news those in the marijuana business.  

"We've been waiting, waiting for two- plus years patiently," said Brad Termini, the CEO of Zephyr, which has been trying to bring a massive high-tech cannabis production and distribution campus to South Buffalo.

News of a deal to legalize adult-use of recreational marijuana has given the project new traction.

"It's all very exciting that it appears New York state is going to take a major step forward this week," Termini said.

The proposed law would create an Office of Cannabis Management, which would be in charge of licensing. As for home grow -- recreational users would need a license and have to wait until 18 months after the first dispensary opens.

On medical marijuana, adults 21 and older would be allowed to grow their own. Anyone younger would have to rely on a designated caregiver of age to grow medical marijuana.

And, cities and towns can opt-out of allowing retail stores. Termini says he still has questions on how licensing and delivery would run. Licensing fees haven't been determined. 

"A lot of this is left to the state to be determined at a later point, when they setup the Office of Cannabis Management, so there's a lot that we still don't know," Termini said.

If the project is able to advance, Termini says, "we think we’re shovel, ready to go and it’s really in the state’s hands at this point in time." 

The state projects millions in revenue, with a local tax shared by counties and municipalities. There are already ideas on how the money could be used.

"It could be a combination of infrastructure, community program, universal basic income potentially," said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes says it's anticipated the state's marijuana market would not be fully functional until 2023. 

And, there's a message from Customs and Border Protection, since federal law still prohibits all forms of marijuana.

"I'm sure some people probably might not read the full law when it comes out," said Jeffrey Toth, program manager at U.S. Customs and Border Protection Buffalo Division, "if they come in with marijuana and we catch them they are subject to possible fine and/or arrest."

When Canada legalized recreational marijuana three years ago, CBP says they saw an increase in marijuana seizures, with legalization in Canada, likely a contributing factor.