New York medical marijuana distributors have yet to make a profit eight months after medical pot went legal in the Empire State, the Albany Times Union reported Sunday. There are simply too few patients in New York because of a lengthy qualification process that makes it hard for residents to purchase legal pot.
Three of New York's five licensed operators, Etain Health, PharmaCann and Vireo Health of New York, told the Times Union they have not made money from selling medical pot since the law went into effect Jan. 7. The other official marijuana distributors and producers, Columbia Care NY and Bloomfield Industries Inc., would not discuss their earnings.
"No matter how hard you look, there's no path, there's no way to make money in any way," Leslie Bocskor, founder and president of Las Vegas-based investment fund Electrum Partners, told the Times Union. He said he was asked to back some prospective New York operators but declined investment "because we just didn't think that the risk-reward was there for us."
"The program is just so hamstrung as to make it impossible, from my perspective, to find any path to profitability," Bocskor said.
Fewer than 6,000 patients had been approved for medical marijuana products as of July 26, according to the state Department of Health. Only 639 doctors have been registered to prescribe medical pot and just five strains of cannabis-based oils are legal under state law, meaning whole plants or anything smokable or edible remain illegal. Unlike in some other states, patients can’t grow their own marijuana.
Etain Chief Operations Officer Hillary Peckham said patients have responded to the treatment, but more people need to use the product for the business to avoid insolvency.
"We're still having a lot of challenges, and there's still a huge amount of cost associated with just operating — it's still a slower growth than we'd like to see overall," Peckham told the Times Union. "The really positive part of this is now being open for seven, eight months, we've been able to see recurring patients and the benefits they are having."
Some New York state residents have complained that they haven't been able to get approval for legal pot. Christine Emerson wants medical marijuana for her daughter, Julia, who suffers from 80 to 100 seizures each month. She News10NBC’s Amanda Ciavarri, "We still don’t have access to medicine for Julia here."
New York Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who sponsored the medical marijuana legislation, said state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo intentionally made it difficult for needy patients to obtain legal pot.
"Unfortunately the program has gotten off to a very slow start, and I think that is because the governor insisted on the law being very restrictive," he said.