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4 Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Slated for New York City, Officials Say

By  Nikhita Venugopal and Aidan Gardiner | July 31, 2015 12:50pm | Updated on August 3, 2015 8:48am

 Five licenses were awarded for marijuana dispensaries and growing farms in New York State on Friday.
Five licenses were awarded for marijuana dispensaries and growing farms in New York State on Friday.
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Shutterstock/matias planas

NEW YORK — Four medical marijuana dispensaries and one growing facility are slated to open in New York City next year, state officials announced Friday.

The state Department of Health awarded five companies with licenses that will allow them to manufacture and dispense medical marijuana in New York under the state's rigorous program.

The state hopes to have these dispensaries open for business by January 2016, officials said.

Under the program, the five organizations can each run four dispensaries and one growing facility in New York state under strict rules and conditions.

Bloomfield Industries Inc. and Columbia Care NY LLC will each be allowed to open a Manhattan location.

Empire State Health Solutions, which is a sister organization of the medical marijuana distributor Minnesota Medical Solutions, will open a dispensary in Queens. Bloomfield will also run its manufacturing facility in Queens.

PharmaCann LLC, which is connected to the Illinois-based medical marijuana company PharmaCannis, will open a dispensary in The Bronx.

"GREAT NEWS! PharmaCann is going to New York," PharmaCannis posted on its Facebook page.

The fifth company that was awarded a license, Etain, LLC, will run dispensaries outside the five boroughs in areas including Albany and Westchester.

The exact locations of the growing farms and dispensaries were not immediately known. The Department of Health has not yet provided further details.

Columbia Care operates programs in five states, including New York, and Washington, D.C. with research and activities that "are limited to marijuana for medical use and we emphasize health and healing through proven science," CEO Nicholas Vita said in a statement.

The company has launched a partnership with the Mount Sinai Health System to research experimental treatments involving medical marijuana. Mount Sinai will also act as an advisor to the company.

The goal of the collaboration, according to an official statement, is to determine whether cannabis can help cancer patients regain lost weight and mitigate nerve pain in HIV patients. 

Columbia did not respond to further inquiry. Empire State and PharmaCann did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The state's business records database has a listing for a company called Bloomfield Industries Inc. based in Staten Island, but does not provide any contact information.

Forty-three applications were submitted to the state on June 5, out of which five were chosen. 

“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,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement. 

Among the 43, two marijuana dispensaries were also proposed for Downtown Brooklyn and Sunset Park but neither company was awarded a license.

Friday’s selection is the latest step in the process to bring medical marijuana to New York state, but there is still much to be done before dispensary doors can open in January 2016. 

The Department of Health still needs to develop the legally required training program for physicians who will wish to recommend marijuana use; it needs to create a registry of those physicians and another for patients participating in the program, according to patient care advocate, Julie Netherland.

“We hope they meet that [January 2016] deadline, for the sake of the patients, many of whom have been waiting for years for this medicine,” said Netherland, of Compassionate Care NY

Netherland and others heralded the move toward legal access to medical marijuana, but criticized the many restrictions of the program.

“There are only going to be 20 dispensaries for a state of 20 million people,” Netherland said.

“There are huge sections of the state that are not going to be well served. That’s a huge disappointment, but not a surprise,” she added. 

City Councilman Mark Levine, who represents the Upper West Side up to Washington Heights, has echoed similar concerns and hopes one of Manhattan’s two dispensaries are located in his district. 

“For people who are chronically ill to have to travel long distances by mass transit it’s going to be a barrier,” the councilman added. 

These early steps could determine how the medical marijuana program progresses over the following years. 

If the program is seen as too restrictive and narrow, it might dissuade patients and doctors from participating in it, Netherland said.

“[Or] it gets up and running and the state expands it and responds to their overwhelming patient need,” she added. 

“I hope in the future it will be more patient friendly than what we’re seeing so far.”