ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Medical marijuana companies are counting down the hours.
The New York State Department of Health is expected to award five licenses any day. Empire State Health Solutions wants to turn Fulton County’s old Tryon Center into its growing facility.
The company’s CEO, Dr. Kyle Kingsley, says they’re ready to grow plants next week. They have a sister company in Minnesota that just started dispensing medical marijuana on July 1.
Dr. Kingsley says one little girl stopped having seizures after just two weeks.
“We knew exactly what we were giving patients,” he said. “We knew the physiology behind it. As physicians we knew exactly how it should work, but until you actually see it change somebody’s life, it’s not as real.”
One big challenge for medical marijuana companies, though, is banking.
The federal government still considers marijuana an illegal drug, so many banks are passing on the half-billion dollar a year industry. As a result, medical marijuana tends to be a cash only business.
“In many cases, businesses are forced to hire guards with automatic weapons to pick up the cash and store it in a secret vault,” Fiorello Pharmaceuticals CEO Ari Hoffnung said.
Fiorello Pharmaceuticals considers themselves lucky. They are vying for a state license to open a growing facility in Glenville. On Wednesday, they announced a banking partnership with SEFCU.
“Without this banking relationship in place, imagine having to pay payroll for 100-plus employees in Glenville and Schenectady County in cash,” Hoffnung said.
SEFCU released the following statement on their partnership with Fiorello Pharmaceuticals:
“Cannabis for medical purposes is being widely used to help people who are suffering to dull pain, aid sleep, stimulate appetite, and also as an analgesic, an antiemetic, a bronchodilator, and an anti-inflammatory. We are excited to have Fiorello Pharmaceutical come to the Capital Region and are pleased to have the opportunity to be their banking partner and offer services to their employees. Like Novartis or Pfizer, the legal treatments Fiorello Pharmaceuticals will be introducing to the community will help many people who are suffering from major illnesses by making their pain more manageable. They have a solid management team with extensive experience across various sectors. The Capital Region continues to attract new and innovative companies and being able to expand in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries by having Fiorello Pharmaceutical come to the area will create a positive ripple effect.”
Fiorello said it also eliminates an extra step for patients. They do not have to go to an ATM for cash every time they need to pick up a prescription.
Dr. Kingsley said he found three banks – a national bank and two based in Minnesota – that would allow him to open deposit accounts and lines of credit.
The New York State DOH said they will award the five licenses by the end of July.