Medical marijuana dispensary opens in Elmhurst

By Bill Parry

The borough’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened its doors Friday near the Queens Center Mall in Elmhurst.

The Queens Patient Center at 89-55 Queens Blvd. began to provide clients with cannabis-based medication products, formulated to help patients suffering from pain associated with a variety of chronic and terminal illnesses such as cancer, Lou Gherig’s disease, HIV/AIDS and multiple sclerosis.

“For the first time in 100 years, marijuana is being sold legally in Queens,” Vireo Health of New York CEO Ari Hoffnung said. “This time it’s in non-smokable forms like tinctures, oils and pills dispensed by licensed pharmacists. The images you see from California and Colorado will not be seen here. No joints and no brownies.”

Vireo Health of New York was awarded one of five licenses in the state to manufacture and provide the cannabis-based products under the state’s Compassionate Care Act that was signed into law in 2014 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Distribution of the medication is conducted according to a very strict protocol under the auspices of the state Board of Health.

A patient seeking to alleviate pain and suffering can go to the Board of Health website to register and receive a medical marijuana identification card for a one-time fee of $50. After a consultation with one of the nearly 200 physicians who have taken a four-hour online course, a client can make an appointment for further consultation with a medical professional at the Queens Patient Center.

One needs the medical marijuana identification card and the registered physician’s recommendation to pass through heavy security just to enter the facility. If everything is in order, the pharmacist will retrieve the medical marijuana product from a safe and package it in an unmarked bag.

“Most people won’t even notice this place,” state Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona), who helped pass the Compassionate Care Act, said. “This was designed to help people in desperate need of relief and give them a better way of life. When it was first announced, we heard some concern and alarm from community members, but after they saw the precautions that are required by the provider people have calmed down about it being here.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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