WHITE PLAINS - A medical marijuana dispensary is poised to open in downtown White Plains on Thursday, but company officials concerned about negative perceptions used another name to describe the business: a neighborhood pharmacy. Vireo Health of New York is one of five companies awarded licenses last year to grow and sell medical marijuana. State officials have announced eight dispensaries, including the White Plains site, will open Thursday. The other 12, including one in Yonkers, are expected to open by the end of January. Vireo's White Plains dispensary, just a couple of blocks from The Westchester mall, is designed as a mix between pharmacy and medical office, Hoffnung said.
Sleek computer kiosks and a waiting room painted in green and white tones will greet patients.
The White Plains dispensary’s security measures, however, underscored the legal ambiguity facing New York as it becomes the 23rd state to permit medical marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law. Dahmer pointed to 24-hour video surveillance and a security booth at the dispensary’s entrance. Hoffnung, a former New York City deputy comptroller, said New York’s marijuana program is among the most heavily regulated and medically focused in the country.
During the tour, reporters viewed prescription bottles and syringes that will contain cannabis-based oils and pills. New York's medical marijuana companies run five manufacturing facilities in Queens; Rochester, Fulton County near Amsterdam, Warren County in the North Country and Orange County in the Hudson Valley. Etain’s website has some details about its other four dispensary sites, but its Yonkers listing on Tuesday afternoon read "More info coming soon." Yonkers city officials didn’t respond to an email seeking comment about whether Etain has obtained approval for its dispensary.

Signs of New York's medical marijuana program as a work-in-progress also showed up during the Vireo tour.
Hoffnung referred questions about the number of patients and doctors participating in the program to the state Department of Health, which is regulating the program. Doctor and patient registration started last month, and some industry officials and patient advocates raised concerns about limited access to the drug. The Health Department also requested that the five companies develop a delivery option to ensure full access to patients who are unable to travel to a dispensary location due to their medical condition, or if their designated caregivers cannot obtain it for them.
Meanwhile, few details have been released about prices for the medical marijuana, which is not covered by health insurance due to the legal ambiguity.
State law requires Health Department officials to approve pricing, and Vireo officials said their prices will likely vary from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars per month, depending on the illness and tolerance. Hoffnung said Vireo seeks to improve outreach as New York's medical marijuana program grows.
Severely ill patients suffering from a list of eligible diseases, including cancer and epilepsy, are allowed to purchase non-smokeable forms of the drug, such as oils and pills, under state law. One of the two patient-consulting rooms features a colorful racing-track carpet, puzzles and other toys for children. Stephen Dahmer, Vireo’s chief medical officer, noted children, mostly those suffering from epilepsy, will likely account for 25 percent of New York’s medical marijuana patients. A Vireo worker stationed behind glass scanned copies of reporters' driver’s licenses and photo IDs before allowing them to enter the dispensary.

He also talked about why it is different from states that legalized the drug for recreational use — Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Vireo officials also displayed cannabis-oil vaporizing devices that resembled electronic cigarettes. Workers vacuumed the carpets and stacked construction materials while pictures of flowers sat on the floor waiting to be placed on walls.
He said Vireo is ready to serve thousands of patients, though sales will likely begin small and grow as the program's enrollment progresses. For example, they urged the state to approve more than 20 dispensary sites because some people will have to drive hours to get their medicine. Howard Zucker announced nearly 150 doctors have registered for the program to date, and they can certify eligible patients. Press releases, grand opening buzz marketing, brand recognition, reputation building, SEO and more! It is one of 20 dispensary sites across New York where patients will buy cannabis-based drugs under the state's medical marijuana program, which officially launches Thursday. The company, affiliated with a politically active Westchester County road construction business, didn’t respond to requests for comment about its dispensary plan.

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