By Brianne Ledda and Zoya Naqvi
Long Island’s third medical marijuana dispensary since 2016 held its grand opening in Carle Place on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
Curaleaf is the latest in a growing number of dispensaries opening on Long Island. The Botanist, which has six locations across the country and three more planned, is expected to open a shop in Farmingdale. Two more companies – Valley Agriceuticals and FP Wellness – are already licensed to open stores on Long Island, according to the New York State Department of Health public register. None of the three responded to requests for comment, and their opening dates are not on their websites.
“Over the coming years, [the medical marijuana industry] is likely to lead to greater levels of opportunity,” Dr. Richard Vogel, Dean of the School of Business at Farmingdale State College, said. He pointed out that companies will need to be careful in how they move forward legally, but said the market has potential investment opportunities.
Legal marijuana is a fast-growing industry, both in the U.S. and around the world. The North American market was valued at $7.2 billion in 2016, according to Grand View Research. The global medical marijuana market as a whole is projected to expand by 34.5 percent over the next four years, according to the financial analysis website Marketwatch, which provides business news and analysis.
There are over 15,000 certified medical marijuana patients on Long Island alone. Nassau and Suffolk counties are two of the five counties in New York with the highest number of certified patients. Suffolk has the second highest number of certified patients in New York state after Erie County, part of the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area, and Nassau comes fourth after New York County.
“The Department added five new registered organizations in August 2017 to help to increase patient access, improve geographic distribution across the state, make medical marijuana products more affordable for patients through the introduction of new competition and increase the variety of medical marijuana products available to patients,” Jill Montag, a New York public health officer, said.
There will soon be more than one operating dispensary in both Suffolk and Nassau counties, Montag added. Curaleaf in Carle Place breaks up the 60 mile distance between the two other existing dispensaries on Long Island, in Riverhead and Lake Success.
“[Medical marijuana dispensaries] see it as a market to make money,” Scott Mayerberger, an anesthesiology specialist certified to prescribe medical marijuana, said. “It’s capitalism. They come here, they provide a product, they sell the product to generate a profit. So if they feel that there’s a profit to be made here, they’re going to come here.”
Curaleaf in Nassau County has worked with over 2,000 patients in the month and a half it’s been open.
“It just goes to show how much a dispensary in that area was needed,” Mike Conway, Curaleaf’s director of dispensary operations, said.
Patients still find the medication pricey, though Curaleaf is on the lower end of that spectrum. Depending on the type and amount of medication used, Mayerberger estimated that patients might pay between two and four hundred dollars a week for medication.
“I obviously wish the program was more affordable and more attainable,” Kimberly Arezzi, a medical marijuana patient at Curaleaf and the owner of the Farmingdale-based CBD shop Chime & Chill, said.
Still, she said, the medication makes a huge difference.