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Drink plantation owners at Greenfield Licensing Cannabis Center

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Greenfield – Local maple syrup “tastes better,” according to Twin Leaf Farms, a new brand on an old plot of land in Saratoga County. Now, the owners are preparing to market a similar offering to a different leaf: marijuana.

While the land and house next to Twin Leaf has been in the Claudia Bright family for seven generations, she and her husband, Kevin Bright, bought the farm about four years ago, when the previous owner—who ran it himself for decades—was looking to move out. Public records show that they registered the trademark in August 2019.

“Since then, we’ve updated Operation Maple,” said Kevin Bright. From a sofa at the couple’s nearby home in Saratoga County, he explained how vacuum pumps and a few extra employees allowed them to double their production to 150 gallons last year.

Sitting in his New York Lincoln Logs-style cabin, the open-faced man sits with his wife against a purple accent wall reminiscent of the interiors of Rachel and Monica’s Manhattan apartment in the 1990s sitcom Friends—the mega-hit that Kevin Bright was Its executive producer, along with David Crane and Marta Kaufman.

A native of Manhattan, Kevin Bright himself eventually launched a sociology romance with his wife, Claudia, as a student at SUNY Plattsburgh, and set roots in her community of origin in Greenfield. But the couple are decidedly two-story, with a residence in Los Angeles, having first moved to California in 1982.

Bright’s initiation of interest in cannabis may have elicited laughter from the room—”Well, I was 16…”—but he nodded with more serious visions as he and Claudia watched the West Coast industry unfold.

The pair have been general fans of the plant since Kevin Bright’s elderly, treatment-resistant mother saw a significant quality-of-life benefit after prescribing synthetic cannabinoids Marinol (also known by its generic name dronabinol).

After witnessing her improvements, a decade ago, the couple contacted the University of California, Los Angeles, seeking support for cannabis research. While the school didn’t have much to say about it at the time, it returned to them years later to support a now powerful cannabis research initiative.

But the Brights were less enthusiastic about the way adult use is being legalized in California.

“I think we get to experience what we don’t,” Kevin Bright said. “The state is literally growing more than Californians combined. That’s growing a lot of the black market. And these dispensaries open up in vacant stores and open for a month and then they get busted and then they move in and open another dispensary, and that’s part of the process of what they do. They’re selling legit dispensaries underestimated.”

Kevin Bright said the couple were encouraged to jump to market in New York despite California’s “wild west” because it seemed to them the state would do things differently, including investing the industry’s proceeds in the communities hardest hit by its criminalization.

Their vision for their 400-acre Twin Leaf farm is to continue producing maple syrup and do other traditional farming, while also trying to use hemp and technological advances like solar energy – but to bring the latter two deeper into their property, the scenery.

“Our solar field will not be ugly because it will be in the middle,” Claudia Bright said, noting that locals protested solar energy based on how it changed the nature of farmland in the area. Likewise, they hope to apply for a license to grow cannabis on a large scale, and listen carefully to neighbors’ concerns about issues such as security.

Ryan Fitch, who is responsible for property care at Twin Leaf Farms, checks assembly lines at a stand of maple trees on Monday, December 20, 2021, in Greenfield Center, New York. Maple farm owners, Kevin and Claudia Bright, have plans to use some land on the farm to get involved in the cannabis market.Paul Bakowsky/Times Union

But nearly nine months after passing the New York Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act to legalize cannabis, their plans are all speculative — the newly formed Cannabis Control Board and Office of Cannabis Management have yet to issue regulations and licensing classes that would allow it. The couple to find out the right place.

Board Chair Tremaine Wright recently said she is committed to a previously announced 18-month timeline — since the board’s completion in October — for running the state’s adult use industry, meaning such operations won’t be up and running until April 2023.

But several PR agents, lobbyists and lawyers across the state are stockpiling clients hoping to give themselves an early advantage in the market — including Mercury Public Affairs, with whom Brights has already begun working.

Several of those lawyers and lobbyists told the Times Union that it’s not too early to start sparking interest in the plan. They’re advising versions of what Kellan Castetter, vice president of the New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association, has described as “creating an atmosphere of inevitability” — involving community leaders, senators, association members and even area residents.

According to representatives of Mercury at Brights, the pair have already taken strides to share their plan with the leaders, even offering a tour of the property to association member Carrie Warner, whose area is beyond Greenfield Center.

Woerner said: “(Twin Leaf Farms) is one of four potential growth companies that have reached out to me to talk about their ideas, and how they would like to move forward.

Woerner has no say in who will get the licenses — the Office of Cannabis Management will make recommendations on decisions to Wright, whose final approvals will depend on no objection from the five-person board of directors. But the association member has hopes of what the industry will look like in her area.

“We really wanted to encourage locally grown businesses as opposed to candidates coming from out of state,” Woerner said. “So I was encouraged by the conversations I had.”

Woerner learned of the Brights plan from Kevin Veitch, who co-managed the farm and whom she has known since her work in local government. Fitch will take over as City Superintendent of Greenfield in the new year.

Meanwhile, Kevin and Claudia Bright have high hopes for Claudia’s native region: they see it as the potential “Napa Valley” on the East Coast, with agrotourism and cannabis at its core.

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