Medical Marijuana

DOH: Med Mar Program Still On Track

A spokesman for the state Department of Health on Wednesday said the state’s medical marijuana program remains on schedule to start in early 2016 — even as Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs a bill designed to create an expedited medical marijuana program for patients with severe illnesses.

“I can tell you all the registered organizations are growing plants and the medical Marijuana program is still on track to begin as planned (in) January,” said the spokesman, Jim Plastiras.

Cuomo on Wednesday approved a bill that would create an expedited program for medical marijuana, giving rise to concerns from advocates and others the companies selected for the five medical marijuana licenses will not be ready in time for the program’s expected start in the first month of 2016.

The expedited measure was pushed by patient advocates as well as state lawmakers who had urged the governor to provide relief to patients before the tightly regulated program goes online.

“By taking this necessary step, I am ensuring that the new expedited program will not jeopardize the continued viability of the State’s existing medical marijuana program,” Cuomo said in a signing statement.

Meanwhile, DOH is continuing to take other steps in ensuring the program is ready, including contacting doctors and providing training to those physicians who would prescribe the drug to patients.

“Also, outreach to doctors continues and info about the training course for doctors is on our website,” Plastiras said.

Cuomo Approves Expedited Medical Marijuana Access

marijuanaIn a surprise move, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has approved a measure that would provide expedited access to medical marijuana for terminally ill patients.

The approval of the legislation comes as the state’s medical marijuana program is due to come on line by the start of 2016, though whether the five companies that have received licenses to operate, grow and dispense the drug can meet the deadline has been called in question.

The Cuomo administration had initially applied for a waiver from the Department of Justice to import out-of-state medical grade marijuana for the program, but state officials later acknowledged the waiver had been denied.

It remains unclear, at the moment, as to where New York will be procuring the marijuana.

But in the signing statement, the governor indicated companies that plan to operate in New York can import medical marijuana should they already be in business in other states that have medical marijuana programs.


At the same time, the program would require the Department of Health to register additional organizations to produce medical marijuana as soon as possible and issue new regulations “that waive tight controls that are the hallmark of the Compassionate Care Act.”

In his signing statement, Cuomo said the Department of Health is being directed to enact the expedited program using directives laid down by the Department of Justice when it comes to marijuana enforcement.

“By taking this necessary step, I am ensuring that the new expedited program will not jeopardize the continued viability of the State’s existing medical marijuana program,” Cuomo wrote in the statement. “I am also ensuring that the Department retains its ability to strictly regulate product manufacturing and inventory, prevent diversion of marijuana, and properly identify patients and caregivers lawfully possessing medical marijuana.”

The move is sure to be cheered by advocates for medical marijuana as well as state lawmakers who pushed for the expedited program for patients. More >

The Growing Economy Part 2: The Business

GreyGE2At first, it’s a surreal sight and in some cases smell – thousands of marijuana plants of different sizes growing in a greenhouses in rural Minnesota. And it’s all perfectly legal.

“If you had told me 18 months ago I would be involved in this business, I would say there’s absolutely no possibility of that,” said Kyle Kingsley, the CEO of Minnesota Medical Solutions.

His company has a bland name but in a rather provocative business: Providing the terminally ill with medical marijuana.

“We have pharmacists, we have pharmacy technicians, we have lab technicians, we have cultivators, we have a large scientific staff,” Kingsley said in the offices of his downtown Minneapolis dispensary. “And then we have the medical executives and the executive team.”

Kingsley’s company is one of five approved for licenses to bring the medical marijuana business to New York. In Minnesota, he employs 39 people, making his business a small one. And he doesn’t expect New York’s medical marijuana economy to be an especially large one. More >

The Growing Economy Part One: The Patients

GreyGE1Patrick McClellan was running out of hope.

“I needed an option, other than something that could potentially kill me, to try and fight these massive attacks and that’s how I discovered cannabis,” McClellan said, who became one of the first patients in Minnesota to take advantage of the state’s new, strictly regulated medical marijuana program.

The New York program is one that’s expected to be strictly overseen by state officials in Albany and a governor who can end the medical marijuana program at anytime. And it’s based on the Minnesota system. New York, like Minnesota, is limiting the number of illnesses that qualify for a medical marijuana prescription.

“Nothing is a magic bullet. There’s not a lot of medicines that cure anything,” said Laura Bultman, the chief medical officer at Minnesota Medical Solutions, one of two medical marijuana providers in that state. “What we’re looking for is an increase in quality of life and an exceptionally good safety profile.”

Bultman’s company is expanding to New York, with plans to build a manufacturing facility in Fulton County. Bultman has researched the effects of medically prescribed cannabis — making her a pioneer in a rapidly expanding, but little understood field. More >

Western NY Groups Vie For Med Mar Licenses

Two companies with ties to western New York are vying to receive licenses to grow and dispense medical marijuana in New York.

One company, Far(m)ed New York LLC, announced it was submitting an application to the state Department of Health to become an official provider of medical marijuana under the state’s program, which is due to come online in January.

Far(m)ed New York LLC is being led by a doctors’ organization in Buffalo and is affiliated with a cannabinoid research scientist as well as a grower with experience from Colorado.

“Our team has decades worth of medical and agricultural experience in Western New York, plus cutting-edge scientific capabilities and extensive growing and processing experience,” said Dr. Ephraim Atwal, principal in Far(M)ed. “But what really sets us apart is a truly patient-centered approach. Our goal is to provide the best product and work with doctors and patients to ensure the best treatment outcomes.”

The group plans dispensaries in Cheektowaga, Henrietta, Salina and the town of Chenango.

Meanwhile, a second western New York-based company, Alternative Medicine Associates, announced Friday it had also submitted its application to manufacture and dispense medical marijuana.

“The entire organization truly believes in the cause, and is totally committed to saving lives and providing patients of all ages with a better existence,” said AMA’s CEO, Dr. Gregory F. Daniel in a statement.

New York’s tightly regulated medical marijuana program was first approved last year. Patients who suffer from illnesses such as Lou Gehrig’s, Parkinson’s, cancer and HIV qualify for the program.

Under the program’s regulations, marijuana cannot be smoked, but are allowed to inhale the drug through vaporization.

Up to five firms will be given licenses to grow, manufacturer and dispense medical marijuana, with each being allowed to run up to four facilities dispensing the drug around the state. It is not clear where those dispensaries will be, though officials talk of allowing for geographic balance.

At Least One Medical Marijuana Application Delivered to DOH

At least one company aiming to produce medical marijuana in New York has turned in an application to the Department of Health ahead of Friday’s deadline.

Empire State Health Solutions delivered two handcarts full of materials to the department’s headquarters in Albany Thursday. Six jam-packed binders and at least 12 other full cardboard boxes were left at the building.

The company is a product of Dr. Kyle Kingsley, who also owns and operates Minnesota Medical Solutions – a medical cannabis company already up and running in that state.

Empire State Health Solutions hopes to become one of five companies that will ultimately be approved by DOH to produce medical cannabis across the state.

They’ve already arranged to set up shop at the Tyron Technology Park in Fulton County should they win the bid.

The company seems confident in its chances – they’ve already posted a few jobs online including an Armed/Unarmed Security Agent per the job-seeking site Indeed, and a Head Horticulturist on Reematch.

The Department of Health is expected to approve five applications simultaneously sometime this year. The program is slated to be operational starting in January of next year.

Some advocates have called for an emergency medical marijuana program to be put in place in the meantime to help those suffering from extreme conditions.

At least one bill by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried would do that. That bill has been slowly creeping its way through committee – it was referred to the Rules Committee this week. It has bipartisan support in that chamber, where Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and several of Gottfriend’s colleagues in the majority have signed on as co-sponsors.

The Senate’s a different story, where Senator Joe Griffo remains the lone sponsor of the bill. It was introduced at the end of April and hasn’t made it out of the Health Committee since.

Earlier this year, the sponsor of the original legislation legalizing medical marijuana said she was against any kind of expedited timeline for the program.

“Any deviation from that effort will delay the entire program,” Senator Diane Savino said during an interview.


Empire State Health Solutions Delivers Their Application


Minnesota Company Eyes Medical Marijuana Growth In New York

A company already in business under Minnesota’s strict medical marijuana regulations is eyeing New York’s nascent program as a chance to expand in Fulton County.

The company, Empire State Health Solutions, is one of several that are applying for a state license to manufacture medical marijuana, with the goal of setting up shop at the Tryon Technology Park and Incubator Center in Perth, Fulton County.

In pitching themselves to reporters at a news conference on Thursday, the company’s CEO and founder, Dr. Kyle Kingsley, said New York’s regulatory structure is one he’s comfortable with given that he has experience with Minnesota’s strict medical marijuana program.

“It’s our opinion that the New York law is likely the most sound from a medical and scientific stand point, but it does have a close cousin in Minnesota,” he said.

Indeed, the New York measures are similar to what is already in place for Minnesota, where medicinal marijuana cannot be smoked and the number of manufacturers are limited by regulators and where a sister company, Minnesota Medical Solutions LLC, has been operating for a number of years.

“All we know is strict oversight and regulation,” Kingsley said. “We get uncomfortable if we don’t have that.”

Kingsley, a medical doctor who has directed his professional focus on medical marijuana, said he is skeptical of expanding legalized marijuana for recreational use, adding that prescribed medical marijuana is “not a panacea” for all patients.

Still, the competition for the medical marijuana licenses — the state will award five in all — is believed to be especially intense.

“The thing I like about the New York law is this is going to require you to be a medical and scientific organization to have any chance of success,” Kingsley said. “Just the scientific and medical requirements are really going to bring the cream of the crop.”

The facility the company is proposing to use to manufacture medical marijuana, once used as a now-closed juvenile detention center, is within a START-UP NY economic development zone, said Fulton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ralph Ottuso.

“It’s a huge impact on the area. They’re going to create starting up to 20 or 30 jobs, going up to 100.”

Ottuso the county itself hasn’t provided any tax incentives or benefits to the company to entice them to the area. Meanwhile, state regulators should take into consideration the economic struggles of areas when considering which licenses to grant, Ottuso said.

“This is a big kick start to that area,” he said. “They should look at the impact it’s going to have to on the areas — areas in need of economic growth. I believe Fulton County is one of those areas.”

Officials at the state Department of Health pushed back the deadline for accepting license applications has been pushed back to June 5 in order to handle the level of questions over the process. The DOH still expects to begin the program official by January.

The licensing process is underway as some state lawmakers push a measure that would set up a medical marijuana program on what amounts to an emergency basis in order to provide relief to patients, especially children, with severe epilepsy.

It’s unlikely such a measure, which would import medical marijuana from outside the state would be approved.

Even if it was, Kinglsey said there would be no impact on their business.

“It won’t be a large impact on us,” he said, “we are kind of going through the standard channel here in New York.”

DOH Pushes Back MedMar Application Deadline

The deadline to apply for a license for the growth and distribution of medical marijuana has been pushed back to June 5, the Department of Health on Friday announced.

The previous deadline for applications had been May 29.

The DOH announced the change in deadline for applications in a notice posted on its website due to a large amount of questions surrounding the applications process.

“Due to the number of questions received, the Department has extended the date upon which it will post answers to May 21, 2015. The Department is also extending the deadline for submission of applications,” the DOH announced. “Applications for Registration as a Registered Organization must be received by the Department on or before June 5, 2015. The deadline for issuing registrations has not changed.”

The state’s tightly regulated medical marijuana program is due to be in place by January, though state lawmakers who backed the program are pushing for a faster phase in of the program in order to help patients — especially children with epilepsy — now.

The program would develop up to four outlets that would dispense medical marijuana to patients with qualifying illnesses.

UPDATEDX2: Gottfried Bill Would Speed Up Medical Marijuana Program

A bill that would expedite the state’s medical marijuana program to treat patients suffering from extreme circumstances has been introduced into the state Assembly.

The bill was introduced last week by Manhattan Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, a long-time advocate of medical marijuana in New York State.

This bill would make the treatment available for patients as soon as possible, if their condition is serious enough to merit treatment from the drug.

Gottfried, along with Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, who is a co-sponsor of the bill, held a hybrid press conference and rally outside the Assembly chamber Tuesday morning.

Besides this law, Gottfried said the Governor could direct the Department of Health to take emergency action to help those who may benefit from medical marijuana. He also said the state’s decades-old Olivieri Law could be used. That law is said to allow hospitals to administer medical marijuana to patients after a medical review.

But even if the law was passed as soon as possible, it’s unclear when the treatment would actually be available to patients requesting it. The drug would either need to be grown in New York, or imported from another medical marijuana approved state. For the latter, the legality is unclear, but Gottfried said he sees no barriers.

“It is still not entirely clear to me that the federal government would prohibit the movement of medical marijuana under state supervision from one legal medical marijuana state to another,” Gottfried said earlier today. “I don’t think the Governor has ever really pressed the federal government to agree to that.”

The bill currently has no sponsor in the Senate, though a similar bill was introduced earlier this session by Senator Bill Larkin. That bill would have established an emergency medical marijuana program for much of the same reason. The same bill was sponsored by Brian Kolb in the Assembly. Neither have moved since they were introduced and referred to their respective health committees.

Senator Diane Savino, who sponsored the initial medical marijuana bill in the Senate, said at the time that she did not support the Larkin bill, citing the Department of Health’s plan for implementation.

“Any deviation from that effort will delay the entire program,” Savino said during an interview.

Update: A representative from Senator Larkin’s office said they’re reviewing the new bill from Assemblyman Gottfried before they decide whether they’ll take it up in the Senate.

Update X2: A spokesman from the Cuomo administration sent a statement to State of Politics reacting to the Gottfried bill Tuesday afternoon.

“Our top priority is to deliver relief to those in pain and we are doing so as expeditiously as possible under current federal guidelines and within the confines of the Compassionate Care Act, which Assemblyman Gottfried sponsored, supported and passed through his own house. Just yesterday, applications for vendors were released per the timeline laid out in that legislation.  The last thing that anyone would want is legal complications to arise from importing marijuana products over state lines without federal approval, or for  unnecessary delays with the implementation of the current program to come as a result of layering a separate process on top of it.”