After more than a year since New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put his apprehensive seal of approval on a restricted statewide medical marijuana program, the Health Department has finally announced the five companies that will be responsible for growing and dispensing the herb across the state.
According to the New York State Health Department, the winners of the five licenses include, Bloomfield Industries Inc., Columbia Care NY LLC, Empire State Health Solutions, Etain LLC and PharmaCann LLC. All of these organizations will be registered with the state and expected to each open four dispensaries that will service patients in areas ranging from Massena to New York City.
“Today’s announcement represents a major milestone in the implementation of New York State’s Medical Marijuana Program and keeps us on track to have the program up and running within 18 months of passage of the Compassionate Care Act. I am proud that we are on course to provide certified patients with access to medical marijuana more quickly than any other state in the nation,” New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement.
Bloomfield Industries will cultivate weed in Queens, opening dispensaries in Manhattan, Nassau County and in a couple of other areas upstate. Illinois-based PharmaCann will grow in Orange County, selling to the Bronx and the area of Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse. Empire State Health Solution plans to grow in Albany and set up dispensaries in Albany County, Queens and two other locations, while Columbia Care will cultivate and sell in Rochester. And, last but not least, Etain says it plans to grow in the Adirondacks, while dispensing in Albany, Yonkers, Syracuse and Kingston.
In April, the New York State Health Department began accepting applications from those interested in overseeing the production and sale of medical marijuana. To qualify for a chance, businesses were given a month to come up with the $10,000 non-refundable application fee as well as an additional $200,000 to cover the cost of registration.
Forty-three companies emerged from all over the nation in hopes of becoming the one of the five cannabis dealers, which ended up tossing 38 companies out of the game.
However, State Senator Diane Savino, who was instrumental in the passing of the Compassionate Care Act, recently told The New York Times that there could still be a place for other companies as the program starts to expand.
“The five organizations selected for registration today showed, through a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation process, they are best suited to produce and provide quality medical marijuana to eligible New Yorkers in need, and to comply with New York’s strict program requirements,” Zucker said.
Fortunately, there’s still hope for other organizations looking to get into the medical industry.
“To those who did not make the cut, stick around,” said Savino. “New York is a very big state.”
Now that the licenses have been issued, New York’s medical marijuana program faces a myriad of other issues, including potential lawsuits from the unwanted cannabis companies and, perhaps, even worse, the distinct possibility that doctors will refuse to participate in the program.
Senator Savino recently expressed some concerns at a Manhattan Chamber of Commerce meeting that suggested the newfound medical marijuana program was at risk of failing because the state had not even yet begun to register doctors to provide patients with recommendations. The lawmaker says that New York does not have any physicians trained, at least at this juncture, to begin offering guidance on medical marijuana treatment.
Unlike some other states, New York’s medical marijuana law forces physicians interested in counseling patients on the benefits of using cannabis to undergo a training program before they can proceed. So far, the Health Department has not yet determined exactly what this course will consist of, despite the fact that several companies have reported developed training curriculum in accordance with state guidelines.
But even if New York does get a training program up and running within the next few weeks, there is evidence that suggests very few physicians will actually step up to get certified. A recent survey found that only 1 out of 500 physicians in New York said they had plans to participate in medical marijuana once it begins. Most of them simply refuse to provide recommendations because of conflicting state and federal laws, as well as issues with malpractice insurance not covering claims pertaining to cannabis.
“This has been my biggest concern,” said Savino. “[Physicians] are the gatekeepers of all of this.”
Therefore, although the announcement of the five licenses is large step forward in New York’s effort to provide medical marijuana for “severe debilitating or life threatening conditions,” those patients desperately in need of this medication could find themselves in hardship when it comes to finding a physician willing to offer assistance.
Do you think the state should have awarded for medical cannabis awards? Share your opinion in the comments.