The New York State Health Department announced on Friday that it has awarded licenses to five organizations to grow and sell marijuana for medical use starting this year. Each of these organizations will open four dispensaries in the state, and all are required to be in business within six months. These outlets were authorized when the Compassionate Care Act was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo last July, and were finally granted the licenses following a “rigorous and comprehensive” review process of the 43 companies that applied.
In New York, medical marijuana can only be prescribed by a practitioner who has completed a four-hour course on the drug, and will only be given to those suffering from a “severe debilitating or life-threatening condition,” such as cancer, AIDS, epilepsy, or Parkinson’s Disease.
One of the companies selected by the Health Department, Columbia Care NY, has announced plans to invest “double-digit millions” in growing and selling marijuana in the state. The company plans to create hundreds of jobs at a growing facility in the former Kodak film plant in Rochester, and will open a dispensary on East 14th St. in Manhattan. “We think it’s a humongous opportunity,” said Hillary Peckham, co-owner of Etain, another business selected to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Albany, Yonkers, Syracuse, and Kingston. The other three companies–Bloomfield Industries, PharmaCann, and Empire State Health Solutions–will each open four dispensaries in other parts of the state.
Some have complained that the state’s laws are too restrictive and that there are not enough dispensaries to fully service the state. “There are huge areas of the state where patients will have to travel enormous distances to get medicine,” said Julie Netherland, deputy state director at the Drug Policy Alliance. “This is especially problematic given that many medical marijuana patients are sick and disabled and low income.”