Cannabis on the Hudson

By Kathy Kahn

From seed to “weed” in three months, medical marijuana will be available only in liquid or pill form at present.
From seed to “weed” in three months, medical marijuana will be available only in liquid or pill form at present.

Up in the Orange County, a drab 135,000 square foot building off of Neelytown Road is host to one of New York’s five licensed pot-growing operations: Illinois-based PharmaCannis.

Put thoughts of “Reefer Madness” out of your mind. Whatever you want to call it—weed, maryjane, pot—cannabis has shown remarkable restorative health qualities for people suffering with cancer, chronic pain, muscular dystrophy and a host of other ailments that the mainstream pharma industry cannot compete with—and with fewer, if any, negative side effects.

For children who suffer from seizures, Tourette’s Syndrome and other ailments, it’s not the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, which produces the “high” people get from marijuana) that helps calm and quiet those maladies. Another naturally occurring substance in the plant is CBD (cannabidiol), shown to have positive benefits for those suffering from seizures, convulsions and psychotic symptoms. It also combats cancer-growing cells and stops their growth—all without the “high” associated with the THC component removed.

PharmaCannis’s $25 million growing operation hosted a tour to elected officials and members of the media before it officially opens. Once it’s gotten final approval, its doors will remain closed to all but its workers—and they are not kidding.

The building is comparable to Fort Knox, with walls so thick and doors so heavy it would take a regiment of Marines to try to get through security. Jeremy Unruh, General Council to PharmaCannis, said New York has put much stricter rules in place for the growing of medical marijuana, right down to barcoding each “lot” for potency and possible contamination in the event of a recall.

“These security and protective measures put in place here are not found in other states where marijuana is legal,” said Unruh. “States like California are going to have to undergo massive changes to comply with new rules coming into effect in 2018. We already meet and exceed the new standards in this building.”

Although cannabis extract has shown to have many positive medicinal qualities, many physicians seem loathe to take the online course to become prescribers. “Perhaps they feel it is a stigma,” said Unruh. “Unruh says doctors must take into account the benefits for their patients and become more educated on the subject, rather than shying away from being labeled.

It is also being extensively studied as an alternative to opiods, which are widely abused and often lead to heroin addiction once the price of a 10mg dose of Oxycodone goes for $10 a pill. “We have to step up to the plate,” said Assemblyman James Skoufis. Senator John Bonacic (R-Mt. Hope) agreed. “We need to find a solution and free those chained to heroin/opoid addiction. This may be it.”

For those who are skeptics, they need only read the scientific studies that show the positives of marijuana use for patients. NYS Department of Health is working side-by-side with those companies that received licenses to ensure the process and the finished product does exactly what it is supposed to do—help the chronically ill.

Veterans who go to their local VA hospital do not need to go through the process of filling out government forms—they are already in the system. For others, they must find a doctor who is able to prescribe. Unfortunately, private health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid do not cover medical marijuana—yet. As of this writing, PharmaCannis estimated a two-week prescription for a registered patient is approximately $40. That may change as marijuana use continues to show its positive health—both physical and mental—effects.

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