By Jessica Opatich and Jordan Bowman
The New York State Department of Health chose five companies out of 43 applicants on July 31 to distribute medical marijuana, two of which plan to open distribution locations on Long Island. Some applicants are up in arms in the weeks since over what they saw as a rigged operation.
“The whole process is very subjective—the rating and different categories and so forth. We felt like we got robbed,” Anthony Quintal Jr., owner of Brightwaters Farms, said. Quintal and his team submitted a 70,000 page application and Brightwaters Farms scored an 85.92 out of 100 percentage points, just 4.67 points shy of the fifth company, Bloomfield Industries Inc.
Applicants were scored based on several factors including product manufacturing, quality assurance and staffing, financial standing, geographic distribution, security, and architectural design, according to information released by the state’s Department of Health.
“One group wanted a dispensary in Riverhead. Now people are saying, ‘No we don’t want this,’” Quintal said. “They didn’t even go seek permission before they did this. How can you award a license to somebody that doesn’t have permits? We had permits secured.” The company, Columbia Cares LLC, declined to comment.
The other proposed location on Long Island has also spurred controversy. Bloomfield Industries did not inform the town of its plans to open a dispensary in North Hempstead.
“There has been no application to the Town of North Hempstead to allow this dispensary to open and they have not sought the Town’s approval,” Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said. “ In fact, our zoning laws do not allow this use at 2001 Marcus Avenue, and we are in communication with the company running the dispensary and the State Department of Health to let them know that they can’t open at this location under our zoning.”
As the January deadline for operating locations approaches, some are skeptical as to whether these companies will be operational in time. “One or two winning applicants might end up abandoning,” KánnaLife Sciences Chairman and CEO Dean Petkanas said.
Companies put up $20 million dollar plans Petkanas said. He added that the projected enrollment for New York is low and companies should be prepared for very long term returns.
“You can build a skyscraper, doesn’t mean you’re going to get tenants.” KánnaLife Sciences was one of the applicants not chosen by the state’s Department of Health.
Leaders of companies that were chosen offer more favorable assessments of the licensing process, but remain realistic about short term revenue and enrollment.
“I found it to be a very precise and well-run process,” CEO of Empire State Health Solutions Kyle Kingsley said. “It was very even-handed.” Empire plans on opening dispensaries in four locations across New York state and Kingsley expects enrollment growth to take time.
Complaints from applicants who weren’t awarded a license “sounds a little like sour grapes,” Kingsley said. “There’s lives on the line every day,” Kingsley said. “We will have a location for medical cannabis for the patients of New York in at least one location by the first week of January.”
Under the Compassionate Care Act, signed by Governor Cuomo in 2014, patients with cancer, AIDS, Parkinson’s, ALS and epilepsy can qualify for medical marijuana dispensed in the form of capsules, oil or other non-smokeable forms that can be ingested or vaporized.
One of the bill’s sponsors, state Senator Diane Savino told applicants that were unsuccessful in receiving a license that they might get another shot, Petkanas said.
“I don’t think we’re going to jump back in,” Petkanas said. “I don’t want to. I’ve had enough of it. I don’t want a second shot at the circus.”