PERTH, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Vireo Health is on track to reach its January deadline to provide severely sick patients with medical marijuana.
On Thursday, Vireo Health harvested its first medical marijuana plants. The organization only had four and half months to get to this stage and start making medicine.
Inside a tropical 80 degree room with high pressure sodium lights acting as the sun helping to speed up the process, Vireo CEO Dr. Kyle Kingsley showed off the state’s first medical marijuana plants.
“We didn’t grow these plants as big as they could be,” he said. “Didn’t have time.”
When the plants are babies, they usually sit in a room for eight weeks. But that timeline was shortened to about five weeks to meet the state’s deadline.
Chuck Schmitt is the head cultivator at Vireo. He looks closely for tiny, green crystals in the flowers, which is where the medicine is located.
Schmitt cuts the plant at the base and severs the main stem. Once it’s cut, medical marijuana is harvested and ready for the drying room.
“I’m glad to see companies are moving forward,” Melissa Hilt said.
Hilt has been waiting for medical marijuana for years. Her daughter, Hayley, has a rare form of epilepsy that causes multiple seizures every day. She’s worried the state is not moving fast enough.
“The fact that there are no patient registries, yet, we can’t get a card saying, yes you qualify,” she said.
“Anytime you roll out something on an accelerated timeline like this, it’s difficult to make things happen the right way,” Dr. Kingsley said.
Dr. Kingsley said Vireo is ready to grind up the material and make it into medicine, but they’re working with the state to figure out the testing process before the medicine can hit the shelves.
Dr. Kingsley believes medical marijuana will be available for sale the first week of January. He believes the state will roll out the patient registry by February.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation on Wednesday that will speed up access to the drug for people facing degenerative diseases and the threat of serious health risks.