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Coming up on Connections: Friday, March 22, 2024

A smart electricity meter with numbers measuring energy consumption

First hour: Should RG&E be replaced with a public-owned utility?

Second hour: Why small cannabis farmers are in crisis

Local lawmakers have debated whether to take the next step toward creating a publicly owned utility – one that could ultimately replace RG&E. Proponents argue it could save money for customers, while improving service. RG&E says otherwise, and has stated that it is committed to the community. WXXI's Gino Fanelli hosts a conversation with guests who offer different perspectives. In studio:

  • Kim Harriman, senior vice president of public and regulatory affairs for RG&E
  • Jeff Sondervan, president of IBEW Local 36, president of the New York State Association of Electrical Workers, and secretary/treasurer for the Utility Labor Council of New York State
  • David Cay Johnston, investigative journalist and founder of DCReport
  • Mohini Sharma, organizing director for Metro Justice

*Note: We invited representatives from Monroe County and the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce to join this conversation, but they declined the invitations.

Then in our second hour, 2024 is supposed to be the year that legal marijuana takes a big step forward in New York State. It has been several years since recreational marijuana got the green light from Albany, albeit with a list of rules regarding who can grow, sell, and purchase. As guest host Gino Fanelli reports, “A combination of the state’s snail-paced roll-out of legal cannabis dispensaries, the high level of taxation on crops, costly cannabis testing and the entrance of multi-million-dollar corporations into the cannabis space has left the small farmer in crisis.” This hour, we discuss the challenges faced by small cannabis farmers. Our guests:

  • Justin Merkel, cannabis farmer, owner of Lit 420, and co-founder of the Cannabis Farmers Alliance (CFA)
  • Tess Interlicchia, cannabis farmer, owner of Grateful Valley Farm, and co-founder of the Cannabis Farmers Alliance (CFA)
  • New York State Senator Jeremy Cooney (D), District 56
Gino Fanelli is an investigative reporter who also covers City Hall. He joined the staff in 2019 by way of the Rochester Business Journal, and formerly served as a watchdog reporter for Gannett in Maryland and a stringer for the Associated Press.