(BuffaloNews) The state health commissioner last year declared New York’s medical marijuana program a success.
But the five companies that the state selected in 2015 to get marijuana into the hands of people suffering from debilitating and sometimes terminal diseases such as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis tell a different story.
“Our company is not close to break-even yet,’’ said Ari Hoffnung, president of Vireo Health of New York, which has a marijuana-growing facility in Fulton County and dispenses its products in two downstate and two upstate locations. “And based on my understanding, no one has made a dime here in New York.’’
If other states were a guide, New York should be preparing for at least 200,000 patients enrolled in the program, the industry estimates.
But since medical marijuana went on the market in New York State a little over a year ago, just over 14,000 patients have enrolled to buy the drug at one of the 20 dispensaries scattered around the state.
Only half of those are regular customers. Many stopped taking the drug because of high costs, distances they must travel to get it or because they died, industry executives say.
Fewer than 900 doctors signed on to certify patients to use the drug.
“There are two things the program is lacking: physicians and patients,’’ said Sen. Diane Savino, author of the bill that opened up medical marijuana treatment in New York State.