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File photo/QNS
File photo/QNS
The state Health Department is allowing two medical marijuana companies to open dispensaries in Queens.

The state Health Department has announced several steps in the last week to expand its medical marijuana program including allowing more companies to open dispensaries in the five boroughs.

Terradiol and PalliaTech NY will open dispensaries in Queens. Currently, Vireo Health of New York operates a dispensary in Elmhurst. The dispensary at 89-55 Queens Blvd. first opened in Jan. 2016.

“The New York State Department of Health is committed to growing the state’s Medical Marijuana Program responsibly,” said Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “The addition of these registered organizations will make it easier for patients across the state to obtain medical marijuana, improve the affordability of medical marijuana products through the introduction of new competition, and increase the variety of medical marijuana products available to patients.”

In addition to expanding the number of operators, the department announced today new regulations that will allow companies to sell medical marijuana in several forms. Previously, only three forms including capsules filled with cannabis extract and coconut oil, a liquid form for those who have trouble swallowing, and a vapor form similar to electronic vaporizers were allowed.

Now, companies will be able to sell topicals such as lotions, ointments and patches, as well as solid and semi-solid products including chewable and effervescent tablets and lozenges.

State regulations only allowed those with medical marijuana cards to enter facilities but new laws will allow prospective patients to enter a facility and ask questions about the program and any products. Caregivers will also be able to enter the dispensary with a patient.

A shorter version of the four-hour courses for practitioners to be able to certify patients for a medical marijuana license will also be offered. After consulting with doctors, the Health Department will create a two-hour program as well.

The department is also broadening the capability of medical marijuana companies to advertise their services, streamlining the manufacturing requirements for medical marijuana products, amending security requirements and clarifying laboratory testing methods.

Currently, there are 25,736 certified patients and 1,139 registered practitioners participating in the program. The number of certified patients has increased by 10,744, or 72 percent, once the Health Department added chronic pain as a symptom eligible for medical marijuana treatment in late March.

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