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Hudson Valley News

Potential Growers Approach Orange County Re: Medical Marijuana

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A few companies angling to be part of the forthcoming medical marijuana business in New York are expressing interest in Orange County.

New York’s new medical marijuana law – the Compassionate Care Act -- is among the strictest in the nation, and does not take effect for at least 18 months, to allow the state Health Department to work out the details of the program and ensure all is in order. The state will grant up to five licenses for organizations to produce and dispense medical marijuana. Each licensed organization can operate four dispensaries and all growing must be done indoors in a secure facility. Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus says siting an operation in Orange could provide jobs and economic development, but there’s more.

“But on the other end the moral aspect to me, as a father, the benefits to my residents,” says Neuhaus. “I had a woman stop me in ShopRite, the supermarket, a few weeks ago and said, ‘Mr. Neuhaus, my son is 11-years-old, he has a seizure every five minutes, he has the mentality of a 6-year-old, we need your help, can you get us…’ 18 months is too long. So not only have we agreed to welcome casino, I mean not casinos but, because it’s a similar process the casinos, that’s  what I’m thinking about, if you look about the application process, it’s very similar, but not only are we open to business for that in Orange County, but we also asked the governor to ask the Department of Health, the state commissioner, to amend the law to allow, in certain cases, people to get help now, so basically have a trade agreement with one of the existing states, like California or Virginia.”

Neuhaus sent a letter to New York State Department of Health Acting Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker July 30, asking for certain patients to be considered for treatment on an accelerated timeline. Maureen Halahan is president and CEO of the Orange County Partnership, a non-profit economic development agency.

“Well Orange County has always professed to be open for business and this is no different than any other great businesses out there,” Halahan says. “So there are opportunities to create a lucrative sales-tax increase for the host community that actually has the medical marijuana manufacturing plant in it.”

She says she and the county executive have conducted in-person meetings with officials from two of the three companies that have expressed interest in Orange County. One company is eyeing the Town of Warwick, the other, the Town of Newburgh. Halahan declined to name the interested parties.

“So we’re really treating this as an economic driver. We’re treating this as something that we believe would be beneficial to the county, to the taxpayers, and also to the people that are in need of this type of medicinal use.”

Again, Neuhaus.

“This isn’t people listening to ‘The [Grateful] Dead’ and smoking marijuana, and doing all that stuff,” says Neuhaus. “This is really medicinal purposes. It is a very strict process, and I think you’ll see Orange County putting in some great bids.”

Republican Orange County Legislature Chairman Steve Brescia says he’s been warming up to the idea.

“Before I wasn’t too crazy about the idea, but the county exec had mentioned it and I wasn’t part of the talk on that. I just heard it secondhand from him, but it sounds like it would be a great boon for the economy in the county,” says Brescia. “I guess there’s a misconception about it. It’s like a capsulized…  But I’ve seen on the news the wonders that it’s done for people that are very sick so I think I would endorse it. It could definitely be win-win for Orange County.”

Under New York’s new law, a patient who has been certified by a healthcare provider to use medical marijuana will register with the state Health Department.

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