Is a marijuana distribution center in the North Fork\'s future?

A medical marijuana distribution facility in the San Fernando Valley, California. (Credit: Laurie Avocado, Wikimedia)
A medical marijuana distribution facility in the San Fernando Valley, California. (Credit: Laurie Avocado, Wikimedia)

While it is not likely to take effect until 2016, New York State is one step closer to allowing patients access to medical marijuana, and that could open the door for a distribution center on the East End.

The state Department of Health released draft regulations this week outlining the method in which the drug should be used, grown and distributed in the state.

Within months, the application process will begin to allow five companies to grow and distribute medical marijuana in the state. That will likely open the door for a distribution center on Long Island, officials said, possibly here on the North Fork.

State Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) favored the legislation and believes the regulations will provide the state an appropriate amount of control in distribution of the drug, while benefiting patients who will use it to treat ailments.

Tom Grant, a spokesman for Mr. Palumbo, said the Assemblyman would be open to the idea of bringing a distribution and manufacturing center to Riverhead or Southold towns, adding that the heavily guarded facilities will bring jobs to the area.

“You are not going to be driving down [Route] 25 and see pot plants on the side of the road,” Mr. Grant said. 

The license application process is expected to begin by the end of February.

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Evan Nison, director of the California-based Terra Tech Corp., an all-natural hydroponic food producer that legally cultivates marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes, said his company, which will apply to become on of the companies permitted to distribute the drug in New York State, will look at Long Island as a possible location for a distribution center.

“We’re not entirely sure where yet, but we would want the support of local leaders and politicians in that area,” Mr. Nison said. “We are definitely looking at Long Island.”

State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who voted against the bill, could be a road block in any effort to bring a distribution center to the East End. While he did not return requests for comment this week, he previously told The Suffolk Times he would not be in favor of medical marijuana unless the legislation was “very restrictive.”

“These things begin to create a slippery slope, and there are already people out there, to use a Christmas analogy, that have sugar plums dancing in their heads, as to where this could go,” he said in January.

Unlike other drugs, patients approved to use medical marijuana will not be able to pick up their prescription at pharmacies. The draft regulations require patients to get their prescription from Department of Health registered doctors and pharmacists, who would receive training from the state. Patients and caregivers would then need to receive a special identification card to pick up medical marijuana at a distribution center.

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Registered organizations would be able to grow and sell as many as five types of medical marijuana and have up to four dispensaries each, according to the draft regulations.

Patients are expected to inhale the drug through the use of vaporization, according to the draft regulations.

“The regulations do no allow for smoking,” Terence O’Leary, Deputy Secretary for Public Safety said during a press conference Thursday. “This is an evidence-based decision the department has made that shows inhaled vaporized marijuana is both more effective and preferred by patients over smoked marijuana.”

The legislation, a part of the Compassionate Care Act that was approved at the end of the 2014 legislative session, allows qualified patients the ability to use the drug to manage “debilitating diseases.”

“These proposed regulations are designed with that in mind, so that we can alleviate suffering for patients with serious conditions while also ensuring that medical marijuana is dispensed and administered responsibly,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Thursday.

The regulations are expected to be filed with the Department of State and published in the state register on Dec. 31. A 45-day public comment period will follow. The state can then choose to adopt the regulations as written or make changes basis on public input.

Read the entire draft medical marijuana regulations below:

  Draft regulations on medical marijuana