New York's medical marijuana program (MMP) may soon be underway now that Governor Andrew Cuomo has selected the five companies that will be permitted to grow and sell the drug within the state. According to Howard Zucker, the state’s health commissioner, these companies convinced state officials “they are the best suited to produce and provide quality medical marijuana to eligible New Yorkers in need, and to comply with New York’s strict program requirements.” Currently, officials project the program will be up and running by January, but the exact date is to be determined.

When asked about the selection process, the administration said that they chose these companies based on their proven ability to make approved medical marijuana products, the efficacy of their transportation and distribution systems, their current financial standings, as well as other important factors. Even though this is a large step towards New York’s long-awaited MMP, a registration program has not been put in place for patients and physicians wishing to participate in marijuana-related treatments. Officials, too, were not able to provide any clues as to when this would happen.

Since New York's state legislature passed the Compassionate Care Act over a year ago, which legalized medical marijuana in the state, it has since fallen under much criticism. The program, one of the strictest in the country, only allows a narrow number of patients to receive the medication, specifically those suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.

Also, current state rules for the program dictate that programs cannot produce medical marijuana to be smoked — they are only permitted to create liquids and oils that can be vaporized or eaten (otherwise known as edibles), along with capsules to be swallowed. Companies are also limited to a total of five products.

As of now, PharmaCann (one of the selected companies) is looking to open facilities within northern counties in New York. They are planning to build a growing facility in Hamptonburgh, the Wall Street Journal reported, while also setting up dispensaries in the Bronx, Amherst, Salina and Guilderland.

PharmaCann is currently well established in Illinois, licensed to operate two medical marijuana growing facilities, plus four dispensaries within the state. John Leja, the chief of operations of the company, says that his business is deeply rooted in helping those suffering from illnesses that could benefit from medical marijuana — currently, every co-founder of the company has a family member who needs and utilizes medical marijuana. Leja says that his own mother has rheumatoid arthritis, and other forms of treatment did little to relieve her symptoms.

“We thought we could bring professionalism [to the MMP], a seriousness to providing patients true medicine that is pure, consistent and science-based,” he said.

Cuomo and his administration selected PharmaCann, among 4 others out of a pool of 43 applicants. Other selected companies include Columbia Care NY, Empire State Health Solutions, Etain, LLC, and Bloomfield Industries, Inc.

One of the more positive regulations the state has put upon these chosen companies is the requirement to test all of their products to ensure they are contaminant-free and consistent in quality; the new companies are ready to comply.

“We are ready to start production immediately and are confident that we will meet the state’s deadline and be ready to serve patients in January,” says Kyle Kingslev, chief executive of Empire State Health Solutions. A subsidiary of Vireo Health, this company already has experience selling and producing medical marijuana in Minnesota.

Now that choosing the five companies to run the program is out of the way, we can only hope that instituting a registration program will quickly follow suit so that New York state’s MMP can finally start to help patients.