In New York, Rockland County’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened Thursday.
Remedy Hudson Valley opened in Bardonia, a hamlet in the town of Clarkstown. It’s Valley Agriceuticals’ second dispensary to open in New York this week, following Remedy Mohawk Valley in New Hartford, in Oneida County. Stephen Ashekian is CEO of Valley Agriceuticals. He says he got into the business after helping his mother.
“She had ovarian cancer, came home from the hospital for the last time, was anticipated to pass away in a matter of weeks with all the traditional medications. I started giving her the oil, six months later she was out having dinner with my dad. So it was a total transformation of life for her, and that’s all she was taking was the oil,” Ashekian says. “So, if I can have a few more of those stories in my life, that’s success for me.”
Valley Agriceuticals’ manufacturing facility is in Wallkill, in Orange County. Again, Ashekian:
“At the moment, we are, we are, we’ve wholesaled some bulk oil which we are processing in Wallkill while in parallel we are building out our own facility. So we have a small facility there, about 6,500 square feet, where we’ll be growing our own plants to begin,” says Ashekian. “But the ultimate goal, the grand plan is we’re going to be building 100,000 square-foot facility on that same 140- acre site.
“Timeline? asks Dunne.
“Timeline?” Ashekian says. “We are hoping to be shovels in the ground by April.”
In August 2017, the state Department of Health approved a second group of five registered organizations to manufacture and dispense medical marijuana, Valley Agriceuticals among them. At the time, though, the company thought it would open a dispensary in Dutchess, but soon switched to Rockland based on need. Meantime, the state Health Department has expanded the list of qualifying conditions since the medical marijuana program began in January 2016. On November 11, 2017, Veterans Day, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill adding PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. Valley Agriceuticals President Erik Holling hopes to see more.
“Autism. Candidly, it needs to be condition-less is really what it needs to be. It needs to be up to the discretion of your physician or primary care specialist, like any other medicine out there,” says Holling. “And I know the state is looking into this and we’ll see what happens with that. They’re eager to expand the medical program as well because they know, they want it to expand because they want it to succeed.
A state Department of Health spokeswoman says that, “Since New York’s Medical Marijuana Program was first implemented, the Health Commissioner has been studying emerging science and has added more conditions to the program, such as chronic pain and opioid replacement. The Department’s reviews are ongoing regarding conditions that could help expand the program further and increase access to this alternative treatment option.”
Holling said about 10 patients had been served within the first few hours of Remedy’s 10 a.m. opening. One is a Rockland County resident who did not want to give her name. She said she’d been travelling to dispensaries in Ulster and Westchester Counties since beginning with medical marijuana in the summer and welcomes Remedy in her neighborhood.
“So convenient, so convenient. Very convenient and it’s really nice inside, too.”
She began taking medical marijuana for chronic pain from three diagnoses.
“It’s fibromyalgia, myofascial syndrome and costochondritis.”
She says her pain pills wouldn’t kick in for a few hours whereas medical marijuana provides relief more quickly.
“This has really helped me with my skin sensitivity. I get relief from this pain within 15 minutes.”
She says she has been able to reduce one of her pain pill dosages from 90 pills per month to around 50, and hopes to cut down on her meds overall while using medical marijuana.
“I have to say I got my life back. I literally got my life back because of my doctors and the realization of the things that, that the cannabis is actually helping me.”
Ashekian, who believes the caliber of his products and level of care will set his dispensaries apart, says Remedy will offer delivery in a matter of weeks. And Remedy will open its other two dispensaries in Brooklyn and in Huntington, on Long Island, in Suffolk County, he says, hopefully by May.
As of January 29, the state Health Department reports there are more than 88,500 certified patients and just north of 2,100 registered practitioners. And as of the beginning of January, there were 1,143 registered patients in Rockland