The city's first medical marijuana dispensary opened Thursday near Union Square and will provide the drug in the form of liquid extracts and oils to people with certain illnesses like cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
Columbia Care opened its doors on 14th Street with a ribbon cutting attended by elected leaders.
"This is a medicine. This is a health care provider," said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
Columbia Care is one of eight medical marijuana distribution centers that opened in the state Thursday, the only one in the city.
To get an appointment you need a prescription from a doctor who has been through a state course and must suffer from one of 10 severe conditions, including cancer, HIV or AIDS, and ALS.
"We took enormous amount of effort to design an environment where people who are dealing with life under these qualifying conditions can feel very comfortable about what they're doing," said Nicholas Vita, CEO of Columbia Care.
For now, Columbia Care will only distribute its "medicine" in liquid form as drops placed under the tongue, at almost a buck a dose. Eventually, there will be oil to be taken in as vapor and capsules.
The company grows and manufactures its product in Rochester and plans for five distribution centers, the maximum permitted under the Compassionate Care Act signed by the governor a year and half ago.
The law allows the state contract with four other companies as well, none of which can sell smokable or edible marijuana.
At least one recreational user in an area with plenty of head shops tried to get into the new facility for a list of doctors who could give him a prescription.
"I don't know if I qualify or not. That's for a doctor to tell me," the New Yorker said.
But this is not a walk-in facility. You need an appointment.
Herzenberg: What's been the biggest challenge in opening in each of the states?
Vita: The misperception, I think, between patient care and recreational use.
The company would not talk about how the product will be delivered for security reasons but said it has no concerns.
Other companies plan additional distributions centers, one in Queens and one in the Bronx.