New York Medical Marijuana

Widely viewed as one of the most restrictive medical marijuana laws in the country, New York’s Compassionate Care Act’s list of qualifying conditions is relatively short, no flower or edibles are permitted, and only five registered organizations (ROs) are licensed to manufacture and sell products.

After one year in operation, the program continues to struggle with low patient participation (12,764 patients were enrolled at press time) and difficulty in finding and accessing registered doctors (833 have been certified), and one of the original ROs has already changed ownership; in January, California-based cannabis firm MedMen acquired Bloomfield Industries.

No other companies were allowed to apply for the valuable license. MedMen, which has worked with Bloomfield since October, said it would move the current cultivation and production facility from Queens to Utica, N.Y. The company will also operate four dispensaries. Twenty dispensaries are supposed to be operating, but every store has yet to open, including Bloomfield’s—now MedMen’s—in Manhattan.

Due to the strict regulations, the program has struggled to get off the ground. While none of the ROs are in the black, Bloomfield’s “financial constraints” reportedly led to the change in ownership.

Meanwhile, another RO, Vireo Health, has also been in the news. On Feb. 6, two former employees of Vireo’s Minnesota-based parent company, Medical Solutions, were charged with illegally importing 5,585 grams of cannabis oil to New York in 2015. Vireo claims the oil never made it too New York. On a more positive note, on Jan, 11, Vireo announced it would be the first RO in the state to make deliveries.

In recent months, the DOH also announced several improvements to the program that could help boost patient numbers, such as a regulatory amendment to add chronic pain to the conditions list on Dec. 1. The public comment period for the amendment ended Feb. 6; adoption is expected to follow.

“After conducting a thorough review of the scientific literature, it became clear that there may be certain benefits in the use of medical marijuana by patients suffering from chronic pain,” Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said in December. The move was lauded by the ROs. In November, the DOH started to allow nurse practitioners to certify patients after reports that they were having trouble finding registered doctors (see “Nurse Practitioners Make Perfect”).

On Feb. 10, the Daily News reported that Etain Health, another of the ROs, “had reached an agreement with a nursing home in the Bronx to provide medical marijuana services.” The name of the nursing home was not disclosed.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration had initially projected $4 million in medical cannabis tax revenues in 2016. Instead, the state will see about $1 million. The administration projects that 2017 revenues to be about the same.

 

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