Five additional companies were given the greenlight Tuesday by the state’s Department of Health to manufacture and dispense medical marijuana in New York state, despite a trade group’s lawsuit opposing additional growers.
The five organizations—Citiva Medical, Fiorello Pharmaceuticals, New York Canna, PalliaTech NY and Valley Agriceuticals—join the five other medical marijuana groups that were granted a license in January 2016 to grow and sell medical marijuana to residents of the state with severe illnesses, such as cancer, HIV, AIDS, ALS or Parkinson’s disease.
“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,” said Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker in a statement.
The state’s medical marijuana program has floundered since its inception. The state collected just $585,000 in tax revenue from the sale of medical marijuana as of March 30, far less than what the Cuomo administration had projected when the program began last year. The administration initially had budgeted $4 million in revenue from a 7 percent excise tax on sales of the drug. The five initial companies growing and selling the drug racked up sales of only about $8.4 million, according to an analysis by the state tax department.In December 2016, the Cuomo administration began interviewing additional medical marijuana growers in the hopes of expanding the program, reaching out to the bidders that initially applied to grow and sell the medical marijuana in June 2015 who ranked six through 10. The Cuomo administration also added chronic pain as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana and allowed home delivery of the drug in an effort to increase access. The state also allowed nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants to certify eligible patients for the drug and made the list of registered practitioners publicly available.
While the state moved to increase accessibility and added additional companies to the program, the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association, a trade group composed of the five initial medical marijuana companies, sought to stymie the additional growers.
The industry group, represented by Harris Beach, a national law firm, filed a lawsuit against the state in May, New York Medical Cannabis v. NYS Dept of Health in Albany County Supreme Court before Justice Richard Platkin, arguing that allowing more companies to dispense cannabis will cannibalize the industry, which is struggling in the state.
“We are not surprised by today’s announcement and remain confident that we will ultimately prevail in court. In the meantime, we will continue to work to make New York’s medical marijuana program the best in the nation by providing relief to patients suffering from serious conditions like chronic pain, cancer, ALS and AIDS,” the trade group said in a statement.