By Sabina Mollot
On Thursday, one of the 20 medical marijuana dispensaries that have been given the blessing of the governor to do business in New York State will open its doors in the East Village.
The company running this location, Columbia Care, announced that it was moving to 212 East 14th Street, between Second and Third Avenues, last August.
As of Tuesday, there were still some details to be worked out — like what the medical pot will cost — but CEO Nicholas Vita said this will be decided by the time the venue, called Columbia Care NY, will open. Additionally, there will be some subsidies available for patients.
“We are starting to develop the pricing structure,” Vita said, “and we have a financial subsidy program administered by the state to ensure patients have access regardless of price or their insurance.”
Meanwhile, as for what customers can expect with this new shop/pharmacy is a no-nonsense atmosphere that the company said will be more like a doctor’s office. To even be granted entry, patients, after getting certified by a physician, will need to get a state-issued electronic ID card that must be shown and validated on site.
Only once that’s out of the way do the patients, who are people seeking pain management for serious illnesses like cancer and HIV/AIDS, get to choose the form of medical marijuana they’ll use.
The government doesn’t allow the sale of marijuana in a form that can be smoked, so options are pills, ingestible capsules and a concentrate that can be vaporized. In addition, there are varieties of the product available with chemical compounds that are tailored to the alleviation of particular symptoms.
“If you have stomach cancer, you would not want a pill, you would want a vapor,” explained Vita.
The products are manufactured at a facility in Rochester and Columbia Care, the largest medical marijuana manufacturer in the country, already has other dispensaries in other states. The company will also now be running dispensaries in upstate Suffolk, Clinton and Monroe.
The East 14th Street branch was chosen for its proximity to hospitals like Mount Sinai Beth Israel (which has a partnership with Columbia Care) and to Union Square Park, a busy transit hub. Naturally, the location will be very well-secured.
“It’s not a hospitable environment for people looking to do something stupid,” Vita promised.
He likened the location’s security to that of a castle, where a visitor must first get over a moat, followed by other layers of access points.
“We have an advanced security system in the form of cameras, recording devices and a secured vault,” he said.
For anyone seeking medical marijuana as an option, according to Vita, the time between applying for and getting approved for the electronic card is quick, sometimes even as quick as one day.
Meanwhile, he added, business in his industry has been good.
“It’s gratifying because so many of our patients who come to us have not found the relief they’re looking for,” said Vita. “Medical marijuana has been shown to be effective when the only other alternative is very strong prescription medicine.”
That said, despite the state’s legislature’s tight grip on the law with regards to the distribution of medical pot, Vita said his company isn’t interesting in lobbying for more lax legislation.
“Our mission is to serve the patients,” Vita said. “We believe this program is going to be an upside surprise and that people will be happy because it’s done in such a responsible way. Whatever the legislature and the governor’s colleagues want, we will follow. We’re not involved in the political conversation. We want to make sure patients are the winners.”
On Tuesday, the state Department of Health also touted the state’s launching of the medical marijuana program, 18 months after Governor Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act.
“Governor Cuomo gave us an extremely ambitious timeline to get the Medical Marijuana Program up and running, and I am pleased that we have met his goals,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “Our program ensures the availability of pharmaceutical-grade medical marijuana products for certified patients and establishes strict regulatory controls to protect public health and safety.”
Along with Columbia Care, there will be one other Manhattan dispensary, run by a company called Bloomfield, Inc. in Murray Hill. Of three additional dispensaries to be located in the city, two will be in Queens, the other in the Bronx. The rest are all located upstate.