New York City’s first medical marijuana dispensary is channeling Mother Nature to help ease the suffering of people battling debilitating illness.
Columbia Care LLC — one of five companies, which were licensed to produce and sell medical marijuana in the state — will open the city's first dispensary on Thursday.
“We’re just so excited because there’s this moment where you actually meet patients and you realize that this is something that a lot of people who have dealt with some very serious illnesses have really relied on,” said Nicholas Vita, CEO of Columbia Care.
The dispensary is located at 212 East 14th St. in Manhattan and will only serve patients who are previously approved by New York State and recommended by a physician, who has been trained and certified by the state’s Department of Health.
Upon walking into the facility’s front doors, patients must first present their registry identification card at the front desk window — anyone who fails to show the card will be turned away.
In order to qualify, patients must suffer from conditions such as cancer, HIV infection or AIDS, ALS, Parkinson’s diseases, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury with spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathy or Huntington’s disease.
“[This plant] does improve lives of people who haven’t necessarily gotten the type of outcomes they were hoping for using standard care and some of these very serious pharmaceutical products,” Vita said.
Once inside, patients spend some time in a waiting room before meeting with a pharmacist to discuss treatment options. The only forms available at the dispensary will be tinctures, concentrate for vaporization or capsules.
Any smoking, infused or edible forms of marijuana are prohibited in the state.
According to Vita, once patients arrive — some who might have dealt with chemotherapy earlier in the day — the mission is to make them feel comfortable, as though they are part of a community.
“We want to be an open book and we want to make sure that people know that we exist to serve patients,” Vita said. “It’s a real opportunity for people to consider this as a suitable alternative and form of treatment.”
Vita added that he understands some patients might be nervous to consider the use of medical marijuana because of the stigma of the plant, and he tells them to take their time.
He invites patients to learn what the company does, how it does it and why they do it and in the end realize that the dispensary could serve as a resource to improve their lives.
“Mother Nature made this as best as she can and we’re delighted to be kind of part of the process that takes all the good stuff that she did and put it into a form that can be used by patients in a reliable, consistent way,” Vita said.
All the products at the dispensary are cultivated in Rochester and framed photos of the plants can be found around the New York City facility. Columbia Care will open its other three New York locations — in Plattsburgh, Rochester and Riverhead — later this month.