The state’s long-awaited and protracted medicinal cannabis rollout reached Broome County on Thursday, as Vireo Health of New York cut the ribbon on its medical marijuana dispensary in Johnson City.
The facility, at 589 Harry L Drive, was announced last summer and is one of 20 opening statewide this month. New York City-based Vireo Health, formerly known as Empire State Health Solutions, was among five companies awarded the right to manufacture and dispense marijuana in non-smokeable form for the treatment of medical conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS and epilepsy.
Calls to allow medical marijuana in New York State have been made for more than a decade by both advocates, who point to its therapeutic uses, and lawmakers. The Assembly has considered legislation in each of its past 10 sessions, and after it won support in the Senate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act in 2014.
Drawing a clear line between New York’s regulations and those of the four states that have legalized some forms of recreational marijuana, Vireo Health of New York CEO Ari Hoffnung emphasized the medical nature of the operation.
“There will be no joints sold here, there will be no pot brownies sold here,” he said. “We will be selling pharmaceutical-grade medical cannabis, not dispensed by bud tenders with little-to-no training but dispensed by pharmacists with years of training.”