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Companies Preparing To Grow, Sell Medical Marijuana In New York

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While the rollout of New York's medical marijuana program is at least 15 months away and it doesn't look like the state will get a federal waiver to get the drug sooner for ailing children, cannabis growers are preparing to be part of what could be a very lucrative business here. The parameters of the state's medical marijuana program are known to the public, but the particulars -- like where the greenhouses and dispensaries will be located and exactly how a company will be vetted -- are unknown.

The following is known: The drug will be administered as a pill or oil; it can only be prescribed by physicians registered with the state; patients must have one of about a dozen serious conditions on the state's list, and must be given a state Department of Health ID card. Organizations that grow and distribute the drug must register with the state, and patients will be given no more than a 30-day supply at a time.

State Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn) sponsored the bill that passed in the state legislature, and hopes the additional regulations will be known soon. The state Department of Health has not heard back from the federal Department of Justice, which state officials asked for a federal waiver to buy the drug from other states that legalized marijuana. The strain, "Charlotte's Web," would be for children suffering from epileptic and seizure disorders.

"We still have the stumbling block of the federal government saying there's no legitimate use of marijuana," Ms. Savino said. In the meantime, companies are getting their ducks in a row, hoping to get into the industry. Terra Tech, a California-based publicly traded agricultural company looking to get in the medical marijuana business in New York, has a new facility in New Jersey -- where medical marijuana is legal. It also has facilities in Florida and Indiana -- where medical marijuana is not yet legal -- and grows herbs and leafy greens. "We built the facilities with cannabis cultivation in mind," said Evan Nison, director of the East Coast cannabis division for Terra Tech.

The company spent a lot of time preparing, "now we're ready to jump in," Nison said. While New York's regulations haven't been unveiled yet, "we can start guessing based on best practices in other states," he said, including how the state will evaluate potential marijuana growers and dispensaries. Elsewhere, there are merit-based applications, considering location, experience, type of security, and, of course, background checks.

Ms. Savino said geographic diversity will play a role in the state's selection of companies so they are spread throughout the state. She said the regulations will fill in the gaps, but expects that the companies must have the property secured, either through ownership or lease, and post a $2 million bond. "You don't want people applying for a license and getting a license and not being able to fulfill the plan," she said.

The state senator and Nison are in agreement that 20 dispensing locations the state will permit probably won't be enough. "Right now, we're starting rather narrowly," Ms. Savino said of the five organizations that will be registered, each allowed four dispensing locations. "I'm not sure they're going to be able to meet the demand." Savino and Carmine Morano, a Tottenville resident who works for PerfectGrow Consulting, a firm that has helped establish New Jersey medical marijuana facilities, also agree that New Jersey's medical marijuana program isn't one to be replicated. "It's pretty much what not to do," Ms. Savino said. They both dislike the not-for-profit model there makes the program less successful.

Morano is glad to see New York set up a for-profit program because it's easier to get an investment. "It's much more rewarding for a for-profit company," he said. "There are a lot of potential players that want to be in the business in New York." While his expertise is in New Jersey, he hopes to be a consultant to some New York companies. "Some of them have already kind of scouted for facilities to purchase or lease," he said.

Like the companies themselves, Perfect Grow Consulting must wait for the regulations to be released before they know what they're up against. Morano said he hopes New York can learn from New Jersey's mistakes. The cost of a patient registering with New Jersey and obtaining an ID card is $200. That takes a while, with a doctor's recommendation needed. The doctors who can offer that recommendation must first take a course in medical marijuana and be certified as a medical marijuana practitioner.

No insurance will pay for the drug "so it's very expensive," Morano said. That limits the number of people who can afford both the time and the money to get the drug. "So New York should try to make it an easier registration and try to make it an easier prescription from a physician," he said. Ms. Savino is anxious for the Department of Health to rollout regulations. "They better be soon," she said. In the meantime, investment in infrastructure is ongoing as companies expect to get a piece of the pie. "Cannabis is much, much more profitable than living herbs and leafy greens," Nison said, adding that the company believes medical marijuana is a good product. "We are here for patients. This is a safe medicine that patients should have access to."



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Source: Silive.com
Author: Rachel Shapiro
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Website: Companies preparing to grow, sell medical marijuana in New York | SILive.com