Here Are the New York Companies That Received the Coveted Five Medical Marijuana Licenses

A marijuana advocate holds a sign on May 2, 2015, during the New York City cannabis parade.
A marijuana advocate holds a sign on May 2, 2015, during the New York City cannabis parade.
Kathleen Caulderwood/the Village Voice

The New York State Department of Health on Friday announced the five companies that will receive licenses to grow medical marijuana under the Compassionate Care Act. New York’s medical marijuana program is due to be operational this January.

Each company will grow and manufacture cannabis in one location and distribute the medicine to four dispensaries scattered around the state. The selected companies are:

• Bloomfield Industries Inc., which will grow marijuana in Queens and dispense it Nassau, New York, Onondaga, and Erie
Columbia Care NY LLC, which will grow and operate a dispensary in Monroe, as well as dispense in New York, Suffolk, and Clinton
• Empire State Health Solutions, which will grow in Fulton and dispense in Broome, Albany, Westchester, and Queens
• Etain LLC, which will grow in Warren and dispense in Albany, Ulster, Westchester, and Onondaga
• PharmaCann LLC, which will grow in Orange and manufacture in Erie, Onondaga, Albany, and the Bronx

“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,” said Dr. Howard Zucker, New York State health commissioner.  

There will be five growers and twenty dispensaries throughout New York's 55,000 square miles.

The applicants were evaluated based on scored criteria, including product manufacturing, security, transportation, and distribution, sales and dispensing, quality assurance and staff, property and equipment, geographical distribution, architectural design, and financial standing, among other miscellaneous qualifications like “public interest.”

Each of the 43 applicants was given a score, with the highest being PharmaCann LLC at 97.12 and the lowest at 45.09 (Ross John Enterprises D/B/A Good Leaf).

Aside from each applicant’s score, the Department of Health has not made publicly available how or why their various qualifications differed. It's unclear, for example, what an application with a high security score looks like as opposed to one with a low security score.

Many suspect the losing companies are going to contest the results. In the next six months the winning companies will begin to build their cannabis grow and manufacture facilities so that they can begin to sell the medicine by January. With the growers having been selected, many are now looking into investment opportunities.

Eddie Miller, CEO of Invest in Cannabis, says technological infrastructure is a major investment area. Developing the technology behind cannabis delivery systems, inventory tracking, and patient data will all come into the spotlight once these five companies begin to construct their operations.

The crowd at Union Square on May 2, 2015, during the New York City cannabis parade
The crowd at Union Square on May 2, 2015, during the New York City cannabis parade
Kathleen Caulderwood for the Village Voice

Policy experts and lawyers say New York’s strict medical marijuana program is meant to emulate a pharmaceutical system of production and distribution. That includes very strict monitoring of patient information and tracking cannabis distribution, as well as a ban on smoking the plant and eating it in the form of edibles.

Methods of ingesting cannabis legally and medically will likely include vaporization or oil extracts.

“It’s a very pharmaceutical cannabis industry that’s been created in New York, as opposed to loose cannabis systems elsewhere,” said Miller. In many ways, New York’s program appears to be a reaction to places like California, where the means of production and distribution are less regulated.

“Now New York has an opportunity to provide medical cannabis in a very specific extracted format. The only question is: Are doctors willing to recommend it?” said Miller. He explained that many doctors, affiliated with hospitals funded by federal dollars, may be reluctant to prescribe medical marijuana to patients.

He thinks the doctors most likely to write medical marijuana recommendations are those who not only believe in the medical merit of the plant, but also see their patients in private practice, outside hospitals.

New York’s Compassionate Care Act covers only ten conditions, including epilepsy, AIDS, and cancer.

“It will be very exciting to see how these applicants that have been awarded licenses are going to overcome these things,” said Miller.

The state still isn't moving fast enough for MMJ advocates like State Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, who said today: 

"[Patients] are still going to have months to wait before medication is available, and there will not be nearly enough dispensaries for many of these patients, for whom the delay could endanger their lives, particularly the thousands of children with serious uncontrolled epilepsy.

"The fact that the state has not moved quickly to get [cannabidiol] oil available to them is really inexcusable. I just cannot understand why anyone in government would not do everything possible to save the lives of those children."

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