By Sabina Mollot
Last week, the state Department of Health made the landmark announcement that five companies had been selected to grow and sell marijuana in the state and city for medical use, and each open four dispensaries. Of the 20 to open, five will be in three of the boroughs (two in Manhattan, two in Queens and one in the Bronx), with the busiest one expected to be located in Manhattan on East 14th Street between Second and Third Avenues.
There will be one other Manhattan dispensary, which will be run by a company called Bloomfield, Inc. A rep for Bloomfield said a location for the Manhattan dispensary has not yet been decided.
Peter Kerr, a spokesperson for the company that’s opening the 14th Street center, called Columbia Care, said it will open at 212 East 14th Street in January of next year. The dispensary, he said, will have an atmosphere like “a very nice pharmacy” and be spacious with “a few thousand” square feet.
To get into the place, and of course to purchase the products, customers will need a recommendation from a doctor and state ID.
In accordance with the Compassionate Care Act, enacted in July, 2014, clients must be people seeking pain relief due to serious illnesses such as cancer and HIV/AIDS.
Insurance will not cover cost of the marijuana, noted Kerr, who also said he didn’t have information on what pricing would be, other than that it will be at levels set by the state. The product will not be sold in a form that can be smoked, but in state approved forms such as capsules and oils and liquids for vaporization.
Along with the Manhattan location, others run by Columbia Care will be in Suffolk, Clinton and Monroe. The company has a manufacturing site in Rochester. Meanwhile, the planned growth of Columbia Care’s operations should create 50 jobs, Kerr said, and those will be permanent positions put into place over time.
The Union Square/East Village location was chosen for two reasons, first for the neighborhood’s abundance of health centers and secondly for being close to Union Square Park, a major transit hub.
Columbia Care already has dispensaries in four other states. While New York’s medical marijuana program has been criticized by some as being too strict, Kerr said the company was quite supportive of the Compassionate Care Act as it is.
The company’s CEO, Nicholas Vita, was on a plane when Town & Village called and remained unavailable for comment by deadline. However, in an official statement, Columbia Care said it was honored to have been picked by the state to usher in the era of medicating with marijuana in New York.
“We are grateful that Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature passed the Compassionate Care Act ensuring that countless New Yorkers today, and for years to come, can access desperately needed treatments for pain and suffering,” the company said.
“As New York begins this new chapter of patient care, we pledge to deliver safe, consistent medical treatments by developing the most secure facilities, offering the highest quality products and bringing the most experienced and professional staff in the industry to New York.
“Our commitment to sponsor research with our hospital partners will ensure that New York State will remain at the cutting edge of innovation by continually improving patient care.”
The five companies picked by the state to open marijuana operations were chosen out of a field of 43 applicants, each of whom paid hefty fees for the chance to do business in New York. Each company that applied paid a non-refundable application fee in the amount of $10,000, and a registration fee in the amount of $200,000. The $200,000 registration fee was refunded only if the applicant didn’t get issued a registration.