New York Medical Marijuana Industry Being Erected

It will be more than a year before medical marijuana is dispensed to patients or they can directly buy weed online on their own in New York State.

Efforts to build the industry are already well underway. In May, the Cannabis and Hemp Association was formed and now has a weekly meet-up. In late October, a convention was held at Time Square’s Marriott Marquis hotel. The three-day event, labeled the East Coast Cannabis Business Expo, saw 900 attendees. 18 energized entrepreneurs were lucky enough to get face time with State Senator Diane J. Savino, one of the “13 most potent women in the pot industry now” by Elle magazine. This Democrat, who represents Brooklyn and Staten Island, sponsored the medical marijuana bill just a few short months ago.

However, businesses are somewhat in limbo. The guidelines for the program are as yet to be written by the State Health Department. Savino told the group at the convention to be warned. There will be very few licenses for grow and dispensary operations, and they will likely carry a high price tag.

State Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), has proposed recreational marijuana in the state. But Savino said the proposition is unlikely, at least in the near-term. Savino also said that New York had turned a corner — referring to tax revenue generation that will likely occur she said, “We can probably take in a couple hundred million dollars a year, minimally.” She added to the group, “You’re going to have patients who are acclimated to medical marijuana, doctors who recognize it, communities who realize that if they have a dispensary it’s not the end of the world. Then you’re going to have more demand. In a state this size, the potential is huge.”

The Compassionate Care Act was signed by Governor Cuomo in July. It mandates that the Health Department write its guidelines within 18 months. In New York law, doctors can recommend cannabis for serious illnesses such as M.S., cancer, and HIV/AIDS. But state Health Department officials have the final say. Five lucky companies will be selected to grow and dispense medical marijuana in the state. These will be “seed to sale” operations. As the New York Times put it, “Now, for the state’s would-be growers, private equity investors, labor unions, lawyers, lobbyists, consultants, branding firms, suits, stoners and hucksters, the rush is on.”