New York State adopted the Compassionate Care Act in 2014 to allow licensed businesses to lawfully cultivate, manufacture, distribute and dispense medical cannabis for certified patients. In July, the Department of Health selected five out of 43 applicants to become registered organizations, each of which may own up to four dispensaries that are expected to open in January 2016. Hanan Kolko, an attorney at Garden City-based Meyer, Suozzi, English, & Klein, has written and spoken on legal issues surrounding medical marijuana, and the firm was retained to represent Empire State Health Solution, a physician-led medical cannabis company, in its application. We talked to Kolko on subjects from the conflicts between federal and state laws to the legislation’s potential impact on Long Island businesses.
Meyer Suozzi has studied legal issues pertaining to medical marijuana for the past two years. Tell us about your work in this area. We started our medical cannabis practice group in 2013, anticipating that New York State would join other states that, in some way, legalized cannabis under state law. Since the Compassionate Care Act was signed into law in July 2014, we have worked with individuals and businesses who are interested in participating in the state medical cannabis industry in varying ways. We worked with Empire State Health Solutions to help it perfect its application. We’ve helped landlords and others learn about the real estate-specific provisions of the law. We’ve worked with people to help them understand the interplay between federal and state laws governing cannabis. And, more broadly, we help people understand the legal climate and how it might affect their cannabis enterprise.
What impact will the Compassionate Care Act have on businesses on Long Island? Initially, the impact will be small. Only two dispensaries are planned for Long Island, one each in Nassau and Suffolk counties. While those dispensaries will provide employment for potentially scores of people, their overall employment will be minor compared to the size of the Long Island economy. In addition, the Compassionate Care Act imposes an excise tax on cannabis products sold by dispensaries, and, in part, tax revenues are distributed to the counties where the sales occur. Thus, once those Long Island dispensaries start to operate, they will generate some jobs and some tax revenues, which will flow back to the counties. As the industry matures and more people begin to take advantage of the ability to obtain medical cannabis, it is possible that dispensaries will expand and sell more product.
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