Staten Island's first medical marijuana dispensary, Be., is set to open at 338 New Dorp Lane in the coming weeks. Believe it or not - congressmen Max Rose visited this Public session - first time for his term.
Nearly six years after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed New York’s Compassionate Care Act, Staten Island’s first medical marijuana dispensary is finally set to open in the coming weeks.
The borough’s first dispensary, Be., formerly known as Citiva, is expected to open at 338 New Dorp Lane by the end of February or early March, dispensary representatives told Community Board 2 on Tuesday.
The dispensary was initially scheduled to open this past fall, but a combination of landlord and construction issues forced the company to push back the opening date, according to Dr. Jack D’Angelo, chief medical officer, Be.
“There are lots of different levels about why things get delayed. We’re pretty confident that we’re not going to get delayed any further and our plan is to be open in the last week of February or the first week of March,” D’Angelo said.
The opening of the new dispensary will allow Staten Islanders who are certified for the state program to receive medical marijuana without using delivery services or traveling to Manhattan or Brooklyn dispensaries to receive their prescriptions.
“We’re from Staten Island, so we know that people from here don’t like to leave the borough,” D’Angelo said. “Having a location on Staten Island is going to give patients the same advantages they have at our facilities in Brooklyn and Wappingers Falls, where they can meet with the pharmacist and find the product that’s best suited for their needs.”
Though some community board members voiced concerns regarding the dispensary’s proximity to New Dorp High School, D’Angelo assured residents that strict state regulations and security measures on the premises will keep the drugs from falling into the hands of the community’s youth.
“We have really rigorous standards and security that are regulated by the state. It just will not be a place that young people are driven to go into, it just won’t,” said D’Angelo. “You have to have a card and a license to get in there.”
“I get it, no one likes change and I understand people’s apprehensions. We can only show what’s going on and that it’s safe. That’s the reality of it,” D’Angelo continued.
COMPASSIONATE CARE ACT
Medical marijuana has been legal in New York since the Compassionate Care Act -- signed into law in July 2014, and put into effect Jan. 1, 2016 -- allowed the state’s doctors to join physicians in prescribing the drug to patients.
Only doctors who take an online class, pass an exam about the treatment and register with the state Department of Health can recommend the drug. And it can only be recommended to patients who suffer from one of the approved ailments. Patients must then be approved by the state and obtain an ID card before being able to receive medical marijuana prescriptions.
The drug is only available in pill or oil form, with no smokeable form of the drug currently legalized in New York.
Those diagnosed with one of more than a dozen debilitating ailments, like cancer, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, are eligible for the treatment.
As of July 31, 2019, there were 2,523 certified patients and 44 registered practitioners on Staten Island participating in New York’s medical marijuana program, according to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH).
A BILL TO EXPAND PRESCRIBERS
Of the 100,000-plus medical marijuana patients currently registered in New York, many are turning to the black market for easier access, wider variety of treatment and cheaper prices, according to State Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn), who championed both the state’s medical marijuana legislation and the push to get a dispensary on Staten Island.
The current medical program "makes patients wait too long, pay too much and travel too far,” she said.
She recently proposed a bill in the Senate Health Committee that would expand the categories of who is allowed to prescribe marijuana from doctors and nurse practitioners to other medical professionals who use pain medication, such as podiatrists and dentists. It also would maintain the current listed medical conditions for patients to be eligible, while allowing for “any other condition certified by the practitioner.”
Savino said the new Island-based dispensary is a step in the right direction, “but we really need to expand this program so we have more dispensaries that are easily accessible."
“And the only way to bring down the cost is to have more availability. The more price competition you have, the lower the price point will be," said Savino.
In response to Savino’s citing of the need for more dispensaries, Jill Montag, public information officer, NYSDOH, said: “The Department of Health is committed to growing New York’s medical marijuana program responsibly, with a focus on protecting public health and safety. The program has helped thousands of New Yorkers suffering from serious health conditions.”