Murray Hill is soon to be home to a medical marijuana dispensary operated by Bloomfield Industries, one of the five companies to win a license to grow and sell medical weed under the Compassionate Care Act. New York’s medical marijuana program is expected to go into full effect this January.
The “patient resource center,” as the company is calling it, will be located at 345 East 37th Street, between First and Second avenues, which is a short walking distance to the NYU Medical Center, Tisch Hospital, Bellevue Hospital, and other medical centers. The distance to those locations made the decision to set up shop in Murray Hill a no-brainer, says Colette Bellefleur, chief operating officer of Bloomfield Industries.
“The most important aspect of why we chose the location we chose was to provide easy access for our patients, those receiving treatment at major medical institutions,” she tells the Voice.
Bloomfield Industries isn’t the only one of the five registered organizations to lease space in the city. Columbia Care LLC will also establish a dispensary, near Union Square.
However, many argue that the Compassionate Care Act, which covers only ten “severe, debilitating, or life-threatening” conditions, including AIDS, epilepsy, and cancer, leaves out many sick patients who could benefit from medical cannabis products. Those with conditions like diabetes or post-traumatic stress disorder, which are treated with cannabis in other states, are not covered under New York’s medical marijuana program.
Bloomfield specifically chose to lease out medical buildings that look like doctors’ offices with consultation rooms, says Bellefleur. “It’s a very different look and feel than others,” she says. “That’s why we call them patient resource centers.”
Unlike some medical marijuana storefronts in other states, where patients can walk into a retailer with bud behind the counters and Bob Marley posters on the wall, Bloomfield is aiming for a more clinical atmosphere at the dispensary. Bloomfield’s website is careful to clarify that the patient resource centers are not “retail stores.” At their facilities, Bellefleur says, “patients can get counseling, have a safe and comfortable place to make decisions about what they’re gonna get.”
She emphasizes that the operation is not about making money as a retail shop, but serving patients in need. Despite excitement about a new and growing cannabis industry in New York, patients should be the first focus, says Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “Recognizing that this is about providing beneficial therapy to people is how it should be done,” she says.
While the medical marijuana program develops, some advocates wonder how many doctors will be willing to recommend cannabis to their patients. As part of the state law, the Department of Health is requiring doctors to take a course designed to teach them about medical marijuana. But critics say the four-hour course will not be enough to teach medical professionals about which strains are best for each ailment and the overall science of cannabis. The result, many fear, will be too many doctors who are afraid to prescribe it at all.
“I don’t think that’s sufficient enough to fully train these doctors,” says Troy Smit, director of Empire State NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). Cannabis is one of the most heavily studied plants, medicines, and materials on the planet, he adds. To fully understand the science and medicine behind the plant, doctors will have to work to educate themselves, says Dr. Jack D’Angelo, medical director of Citiva Medical, one of the companies that applied for a medical marijuana growing license in New York.
Under the Compassionate Care Act, each company licensed to grow medical marijuana will also distribute five particular strains from five dispensaries to patients across the state. However, Bloomfield does not yet know definitively which strains it will carry or what ailments they will be best suited for. Each of Bloomfield’s dispensaries, or patient resource centers, will be in medical buildings of up to 3,000 square feet, with secure, discreet, and controlled entryways under video surveillance. On its website, Bloomfield says that each patient resource center will bring about 25 jobs to the community where it is located. The Murray Hill location will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.