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By Lisa Rough

After a year and a half of nail-biting anticipation, New York’s medical marijuana program is finally ready to make its debut.

There are only five organizations licensed to dispense cannabis products in the state of New York, and it looks like it will be a race to open doors to the public Thursday, almost exactly a 18 months from the program’s inception. And remarkably that’s exactly as planned.

Columbia Care’s CEO Nicholas Vita has promised that their 14th Street location in Union Square will be open, with tested products ready and available on the shelves.

Vireo Health of New York, formerly known as Empire State Health Solutions, announced that they may be the first dispensary, quite possibly in nation, to offer cannabis products that have been certified kosher by the Orthodox Union. Vireo Health will be opening a location today in Westchester, with the others to follow by the end of January.

PharmaCann, already firmly established as a major player in the Illinois medical cannabis market, is planning to open two locations today: one in Buffalo and another in Liverpool. Its other two locations will not be opening until later this month.

Staten Island-based Bloomfield Industries will be operating dispensaries in Manhattan, Williamsville and Syracuse, although it’s looking likely that the first location to open will be in Lake Success on Marcus Boulevard.

Etain is a rare breed for a dispensing organization in that they are entirely women-owned and operated. Leafly caught COO Keeley Peckham as she was driving between locations in a desperate dash to open two dispensaries in 12 hours. Etain Health will be opening locations in Kingston and Albany this week, she said, and they’ve already announced that they will be carrying three strains: one with high CBD, one with a balanced CBD-THC ratio and one high-THC strain, all of which are sponsored by Bhang Medicinals.

It’s a tremendous occasion for all involved and congratulations are in order for the hardworking teams rushing to meet a tight deadline. It will be an interesting experiment to watch medical cannabis rollout in the Big Apple, as there will likely be a few bumps in the road. But it’s encouraging that the program is on track and dispensaries are ready to serve patients.

Will there be any patients to serve? For more information on how to register as a physician or a patient, please visit the New York State Medical Marijuana Program.

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