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Another Voice: Don't force medical marijuana dispensaries into bidding

By Jeremy Unruh

What will New York’s new cannabis industry look like? Who will benefit from an adult-use program that’s forecast to generate hundreds of millions of tax dollars every year?

The lawmakers drafting this complex legislation face many challenges, but above all else, they must ensure a safe and secure product, improve access and lower costs for medical marijuana patients, and provide opportunity to communities previously harmed by the failed war on drugs.

This can happen quickly and efficiently, while generating much-needed tax revenue for the state, if lawmakers leverage the expertise of New York’s medical marijuana producers and utilize the proven infrastructure of our statewide program.

Buffalo plays an integral role in that infrastructure by employing dozens of highly trained, well-paid workers at dispensaries in Amherst and Williamsville. But those jobs will be in jeopardy if the state requires medical cannabis producers to outbid each other at auction to participate in the adult-use program.

An auction is not an option for most of us. It guarantees the highest bidders with the deepest pockets win and furthers the misconception that medical marijuana producers put profits before patients.

In fact, an auction would close some of our doors and leave tens of thousands of ailing New Yorkers to medicate themselves without guidance on consumption and dosage limits from licensed health practitioners.

We strongly support creating an economic mechanism that provides financing and training to minority- and women-owned businesses to help them participate in the adult-use market. And if additional medical licenses are granted, they should to go minority- and women-owned businesses to increase ownership diversity.

But we encourage lawmakers to develop an alternative to the proposed auction model. We should not solely be obligated to fund the adult-use program.

We’ve collectively invested millions of dollars and thousands of hours to build an infrastructure for medical marijuana. We should be permitted to grow, formulate and sell cannabis for adult-use at our medical dispensaries.

In addition, patients would benefit greatly if we opened additional dispensaries across the state – a move that would also facilitate consumers moving from the illicit market into a regulated, safe one.

We look forward to engaging in discussions to help create a fair and equitable adult-use industry in New York. This must be done the right and responsible way.

Jeremy Unruh is secretary of the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association and a principal in PharmaCann, which operates a dispensary in Amherst.

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