Five companies were announced this Friday by the New York Department of Health (DOH) as winners of the tender to grow and dispense medical marijuana within the state. As per the DOH ruling, only five licenses were allowed, and over forty applicants had to compete to get their share of the pie. Growing medical marijuana is frequently cited as the ‘new Klondike’ by business observers, and numerous companies throughout the country are starting to invest in future projects.
The lucky businesses to have won the NY lottery are: PharmaCann LLC; Columbia Care NY LLC; Empire State Health Solutions LLC; Etain LLC and Bloomfield Industries Inc. Excited as they may be about the outcome, these companies are put to severe restrictions by the DOH, in regard to how their business will be conducted. Firstly, producers are limited to cultivation of only five strains of marijuana. Secondly, all medicine must come in form of pills, oil or tincture. Lastly, each producer is only allowed to open four dispensaries, and prices in these shops will be regulated by the DOH.
As we can see, NY government aims to take as much control of newly legalized industry as they can. According to Julie Netherland, PhD, the DOH Deputy Director, registering these five companies as official MMJ producers is a big step in the state medical marijuana program. ‘The program was approved in July 2014, but since then no patient has gotten their much desired medicine, due to legal obstacles’, the officer commented. ‘Selecting these companies and letting them do their job is a huge boost, but we still have much work to do before the program becomes fully operational’, she added.
The DOH has yet to design and approve a system of registering patients and doctors, as well as dispensary locations, which, as we know, are limited. On the one hand, the state is working to create a legal and transparent program that would help patients and regulate distribution, but on the other hand, letting only five companies control the whole market sounds like facilitating monopoly. In 2016 we will see how the program works.