By Bill Parry
Medical marijuana will be grown and dispensed at two locations in the borough now that the state Department of Health has awarded licenses to five organizations. Bloomfield Industries Inc. will grow cannabis in a warehouse by the base of the Long Island Expressway in Long Island City as early as December, while Empire State Health Solutions will operate a dispensary from a building next door to the Queens Center mall.
“Today’s announcement represents a major milestone in the implementation of New York state’s Medical Marijuana Program and keeps us on track to have the program up and running within 18 months of passage of the Compassionate Care Act,” DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said. “The five organizations selected for registration showed, through a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation process, they are the 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.”
The outlets were authorized when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act in July 2014.
A total of 43 companies applied. The evaluation process was conducted by a team of professionals from within state government with backgrounds in the practice of medicine, quality assurance, analytical and medicinal chemistry and other fields.
Under state regulations, the marijuana cannot be smoked, so companies will have to create other products such as pills or ointment. DOH has said that New York’s medical program will be fully operational by January 2016.
Since July 2014, advocates have been fighting for an emergency access program to get medicine to the critically ill sooner than the January 2016 deadline. But despite a year of advocacy and passing an emergency access bill in both the Senate and the Assembly, to date not one patient in New York has received medical marijuana.
Eligible patients include those with cancer, HIV/AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, sclerosis, epilepsy, Huntington’s disease, severe or chronic nausea, seizures and “any other condition added by the commissioner.”
The regulations require security measures “to prevent and detect diversion, theft of loss” of medical marijuana including alarms, motion detectors and video cameras wherever marijuana is stored.
Bloomfield Industries will operate its growing center in a 235,000-square-foot warehouse at 30-02 Borden Ave. in an industrial section, while Empire State Health Solutions will be centrally located next to Queens Center in Elmhurst.
City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) sponsored a Council resolution asking the state to legalize medical marijuana, now his District 25 will be home to the Elmhurst dispensary.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction and it is in a good accessible location,” Dromm said. “I knew people who were dying of AIDS and couldn’t tolerate the pain and the drugs that they had to take gave them horrible nausea. I’ve seen medical marijuana help people directly.”
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) welcomed the two locations to the borough. “It is welcome news for our economy when new jobs are created in our neighborhoods,” he said. “I look forward to working with this new local business to ensure it is a good corporate neighbor to existing residents.”
Sales of medical marijuana will be subject to a 7 percent tax. New York will be the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana to ease the pain associated with some illnesses.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr