The only borough without a medical marijuana dispensary will have to wait until at least September to get its first legal pot shop.
A dispensary had been set to open in June on Staten Island, which has roughly 2,500 patients registered to get medical marijuana prescriptions — a larger population share than any other borough.
Executives at Citiva Medical, the company licensed by the state Department of Health to sell medical marijuana in Staten Island, told state Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island, Brooklyn) last week they had selected a location in New Dorp, she said.
Once an architect gets to work and building permits come through, Savino said, the retail storefront should be good to go, two years after the state Health Department announced plans for several dispensaries, including one for Staten Island.
“It’s complicated. You have to get approval, you have to find a location that’s willing to rent to you. It’s not as easy as people think,” said Savino. “And the investment that has to go into the property to satisfy the state’s Department of Health can also be prohibitive. Some people don’t want you coming in and installing a vault in their storefront.”
Citiva Medical did not respond to several requests for comment. A spokesperson for Citiva, Ali Shapiro, told THE CITY in May the company was “gearing up for a June launch” in Staten Island, after opening its Brooklyn storefront in December.
‘Painful for Patients’
Savino has taken a special interest in expanding access to medical marijuana, a quest that’s become more urgent with the failure of efforts in the state Legislature to fully legalize pot.
Also stranded when the Legislature’s annual session ended last month was a measure Savino sponsored, along with Assemblymember Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), that would have loosened the state’s strict regulations on marijuana businesses and patients.
“It’s painful for patients. The New York state medical marijuana program, five years after it was originally adopted, continues to be a work in progress,” said Savino. “But the people who are hurting the most as a result of it are patients. We have 100,000 patients. They are travelling too far, paying too much, and waiting too long to get access to medication.”
Particularly onerous, Savino noted, is the state’s mandate that each of its 10 licensed medical marijuana companies control every stage of the process, from seed to sale.
The proposed legislation would have broadened the list of 17 severe and debilitating illnesses that allow patients to qualify for medical marijuana to include any conditions certified by a doctor.
The measure also would have expanded the types of medical practitioners who can certify a patient, legalized smokable forms of medicinal marijuana and allowed companies to contract out certain functions.
Savino and Gottfried sought to amend the bill on the last day of the legislative session to add language aimed at improving access for minority-owned businesses. The altered bill needed a co-called “message of necessity” from Gov. Cuomo that would have enabled lawmakers to vote on the measure before the session ended, without the standard three days’ wait.
Jason Conwall, a spokesperson for Cuomo, said the latest version of the measure was floated too late.
“This bill was proposed at the last minute — a time when we were still cleaning up legislative mistakes that would have made their other eleventh-hour agreements unenforceable or worse,” Conwall said. “Much of what they proposed can be done administratively and the Department of Health is discussing these issues with the legislators.”
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