The Cannabis and Hemp Association has opened a chapter in Albany, New York, according to a report from NPR-affiliate WAMC. During the first meeting, members reviewed the first year of the state’s medical marijuana program and discussed the impact of the Compassionate Care Act’s new regulations.

Pamela Johnston, Electrum Partners’ senior vice president for strategy and special projects, said that New York’s very limited medical cannabis program is causing the industry to suffer because it prevents businesses from entering the state’s market. She said canna-businesses are interested in states with “thriving infrastructure” and that New York is not among them.

“A good example would be Nevada, for a 20,000 patient medical market, because Nevada’s ‘medical only’ right now,” she said in the report. “They do have reciprocity for tourists, but Nevada had $400 million spent on infrastructure just for that 20,000 patient market.”

The patient counts in New York’s medical cannabis program are nowhere close to Nevada’s — with just about 7,600 enrolled patients as of September. And, although that figure represents a huge step forward from patient counts in May — which were about 4,800 — there are still many shut out of the program due to its limited scope.

Eileen Konieczny, president of the American Cannabis Nurses Association, suggested that if more physicians understood the endocannabinoid system, they would be more open to writing patient recommendations for medical marijuana use.

Just five companies are licensed to grow, cultivate and sell medical cannabis in the state — which does not include chronic pain as a qualifying condition.

Fred Polsinelli, spokesman for PharmaCannis LLC, one of the state’s licensed producers, indicated that the company is using just 5 percent of its 135,000-square foot Orange County greenhouse — but “more greenhouses” is not what the program needs to thrive.

“We need more patient access and that’s what this department is working on, we’re all working together on it, and at the end of the day it really is all about the patients,” he said. “But it’s also an industry. And if the industry is not supported by positive economics, there will be no industry.”

In August, three of the state’s five licensed operators, including PharmaCann, indicated that they were not yet profitable. At that time, Polsinelli estimated it would be at least another 18 months until the companies were in a profitable position.       

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