Marijuana: A Medicinal Mainstream?

medical marijuana

Wall Street Journal
June 6, 2015
Companies Rush to Meet Deadline for One of NY’s Five Medical-Marijuana Licenses
By Corinne Ramey

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New York Times
June 6, 2015
Hospitals Back Providers Applying for New York State Marijuana Licenses

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June 5, 2015
North Shore-LIJ Seeks State Medical Marijuana License

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FIOS1 News
June 8, 2015
North Shore-LIJ Applies for Medical Marijuana License

Jim Romagnoli, VP, security & support systems, North Shore-LIJ Health System

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Long Island Business News
June 5, 2015
NS-LIJ Partners to Open Medical Marijuana Dispensary
By: Claude Solnik 

The North Shore-LIJ Health System has partnered with a Colorado-based company to apply to the state for the right to become among the first to open a medical marijuana dispensary in New York.
The Great Neck-based system teamed with Aspen, Col.,-based Silverpeak Apothecary to form Silverpeak NY LLC, which applied to the New York State Department of Health.
New York State, which plans to issue five licenses, set June 5 as a deadline for applications. The state hopes to decide on the licenses next month for a program that would begin Jan. 1, 2016.
North Shore-LIJ CEO Michael Dowling said the system “recognizes the importance of our patients having access to every legal option to manage the symptoms of their illness, if there is clinical evidence to support marijuana’s use for the condition.”
“If we receive state approval to move forward, we are confident in our ability to administer and dispense medical marijuana in compliance with state guidelines,” Dowling said. “We believe our two organizations can leverage our collective strengths to establish a program that will enable us to develop strict quality control measures, dispensaries and create a delivery model that will benefit patients.”
Scientists at the system’s Feinstein Institute for Medical Research will conduct research regarding potential medicinal benefits of marijuana for treating various conditions.
Possible uses would include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, chronic pain, epilepsy, movement disorders and other neurologic conditions, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s, lupus and other autoimmune diseases, leukemia and other cancers.
Silverpeak Apothecary CEO Jordan Lewis said he believes the partnership “will provide a framework in which data driven cannabis therapeutics can thrive.”
Silverpeak Apothecary, which some have called the “Wholefoods of marijuana,” quickly become known as a high-end dispensary with a luxurious look and workers known as guides.
Silverpeak Apothecary operates a store not far from Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton and Gucci in Aspen.
“We want to be considered to be on par with those establishments, both in quality of product and of service,”  Jordan Lewis, the owner, told Yahoo Finance.
Silverpeak Apothecary, which was founded in 2009, opened one of the first medical dispensaries in Colorado. North Shore-LIJ had discussions with various potential partners before teaming with Silverpeak, which would fund the operation.
North Shore-LIJ operates 19 hospitals and more than 400 outpatient physician practices, employing 54,000 including nearly 13,000 nurses and is affiliated with about 10,000 physicians.

Crain’s Health Pulse
June 8, 2015
North Shore-LIJ Goes for the Green

At least one applicant vying to cultivate and dispense medical marijuana in New York will have a direct pipeline to physicians. North Shore-LIJ threw its hat in the ring for a license on Friday, the last day the state Health Department was accepting applications. In order to apply, the hospital system formed the company Silverpeak NY in partnership with Colorado-based cannabis operation Silverpeak Apothecary. NS-LIJ's marijuana operation would work with scientists from the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research to test marijuana's effectiveness in treating various behavioral and physical health conditions and to create a strategy for integrating the drug into medical practice. Unlike some of its competitors, NS-LIJ will not lease or purchase property for its cultivation site and dispensaries unless its application is approved. It has not stated where they would be located.

Associated Press
June 5, 2015
NY to Disclose Medical Marijuana Operator License Bidders

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Aspen Times
June 9, 2015
Aspen Marijuana Company Silverpeak Expands, To Address Basalt Smells Today

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Capital New York
June 11, 2015
Durst, Hospital Groups Bid for Marijuana License
By Laura Nahmias

ALBANY—Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states in the U.S.,  but until recently, growing and distributing the drug has been the province of entrepreneurs at the fringes of the health care system, while hospitals fearful of losing federal funding have stayed away.

But now, in a very unusual turn, at least two of New York state’s largest, most well-respected health care organizations, along with a very prominent New York City real estate firm, are going to vie for one of the five available licenses to grow and distribute medical marijuana in New York.

Through a for-profit subsidiary named GNYHA Ventures, Inc., the Greater New York Hospital Association is partnering with the Durst Organization, one of the oldest residential and commercial real estate companies in New York City, on a bid for a license to grow and sell medical marijuana, a GNYHA spokesman confirmed to Capital.

GNYHA is the influential nonprofit trade group that represents downstate area hospitals.

The Durst Organization and GNYHA Ventures bid was submitted through a limited liability corporation named Compassionate Sunset, LLC, which was incorporated on May 15 this year.

And North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System, which serves an estimated 4 million people in the greater New York area, has also filed an application for a license through North Shore Ventures, a for-profit subsidiary, in partnership with a Colorado company named Silverpeak.

North Shore LIJ's entrance into the marijuana bid process is a "a watershed moment in medicine and the cannabis industry," Silverpeak’s C.E.O. Jordan Lewis said in an interview earlier this week with the Aspen Times.

“This is the first time a major health care provider has gotten actively involved to find how cannabis can benefit patients,” he said. “This can be data-driven therapeutics and a scientific approach to cannabis,” Lewis told the paper.

Drug policy advocates said it gives the medical marijuana industry an extra layer of respectability, and indicates how much has changed for marijuana in a very short time.

“On the one hand it’s fantastic that hospitals are expressing interest in this, because for years hospitals wouldn’t touch this,” said Gabriel Sayegh, director of the New York state chapter of Drug Policy Alliance. “Hospitals have not wanted to take on some of the potential risks."

"It’s an indication that this has continued to move into a mainstream place,” he added, referring to medical marijuana.

Representatives for both GNYHA and North Shore-LIJ echoed that sentiment in separate interviews with Capital, saying the regulatory environment surrounding medical marijuana had changed significantly, even within the last year.

Where hospitals once feared that involvement with marijuana, which is still classified as a Schedule 1 substance by the federal Food and Drug Administration, could jeopardize federal grants funding or money for Medicare and Medicaid patients, hospitals are now responding to a number of recent changes in the federal government’s attitude toward marijuana regulation.

Those changes include the famous Cole Memorandum, a 2013 Department of Justice memo that said, in essence, that the federal government would allow states that had legalized marijuana to police themselves without federal intervention. In December of 2014, Congress passed an amendment as part of its spending plan that prohibited the Department of Justice from spending its resources to police marijuana programs in states where it has already been legalized.

North Shore LIJ’s leadership decided early on the hospital had a responsibility to patients to try to become involved with the program in some way.

“Our health system basically touches 4 million people a year, across all of Long Island and New York City and Westchester County, and from our standpoint we felt like we had an obligation to be able to offer our patients any legal viable alternative therapies that exist for serious conditions and debilitating symptoms,” said Terry Lynam, a spokesman for North Shore LIJ.

“In terms of pure numbers, we just didn't think it was a good idea not to become involved in it,” Lynam said.

“The fact of the matter is that it's a pretty shifting environment and evolving environment at the federal level, that I think gives us some comfort with respect to this,” said Tom Thornton, the executive director of North Shore’s for-profit subsidiary, North Shore Ventures.

Both North-Shore LIJ’s North Shore Ventures and GNYHA Ventures president Lee Perlman also said they decided to bid for licenses in New York because it could open the door for future research.

In a statement to Capital, Perlman said, “GNYHA Ventures is part of a medical marijuana application because the State’s program is primarily about improving health-care delivery—the core mission of hospitals. We therefore believe that every hospital-based application should be given very strong consideration. The GNYHA Ventures application will allow a participation bridge for interested hospitals. We have a strong partner in the Durst Organization."

But both bidders are still taking some precautions, given the continuing murkiness of the federal law.

Both North Shore LIJ and GNYHA Ventures said that all the funding for their bids, including the $10,000 application fee and leases necessary to apply for the licenses would come from their respective outside partners, Silverpeak and the Durst Organization.

While GNYHA Ventures is a separate for-profit arm of the nonprofit hospital association, any profit that the business enterprise earns from growing and selling medical marijuana could also be used to support the operations of the nonprofit trade association. GNYHA already has several for profit subsidiaries that currently contribute funding to the operations of the not for profit trade group.

GNYHA Ventures is betting that the state's health department will seriously consider its proposal because of the involvement of the trade organization, an established, well-respected actor in health care and government here.

If either bid were to win one of the available licenses, it could raise possible questions about favoritism, because of the close working relationship both North Shore LIJ C.E.O. Michael Dowling and GNYHA president Ken Raske enjoy with Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration.

A North Shore LIJ spokesman and GYNHA Ventures' Perlman said they believed the bids, which will be selected by the state health department, will be decided solely on merit.

Neither GNYHA Ventures nor the Durst Organization have any experience growing medical marijuana, but GNYHA has a significant background in medical research and the Durst Organization already owns and operates several agricultural properties in upstate New York, Perlman said.

North Shore LIJ’s bid structure is different. The hospital system's partner Silverpeak has significant experience cultivating marijuana, and the hospital is setting up a major firewall between the for-profit medical marijuana venture and its not for profit hospital operation.

The hope is that North Shore LIJ’s physicians would eventually have some access to patients using medical marijuana so they could study the drug’s effects.

The F.D.A. still classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 substance, making it very difficult for researchers to grow or study the plant’s medical uses, Thornton said.

“Because of the nature of the current regulation of this drug, the National Institutes of Health have effectively blocked FDA development of any compounds that involve medical marijuana,” Thornton told Capital. “And as a result there’s a sort of a catch-22 for those that have an interest in medical marijuana. You effectively can't access it on one hand. And then on the other hand, if you can't access it, it’s hard to develop novel therapeutics.”

So North Shore LIJ’s plans for research are contingent upon some kind of approval from the federal government, Thornton said.

“We have a specific interest in working with the state and the Department of Health… to make sure we can do [research] in a legally compliant way, and I assume to some extent that will also involve working with the National Institutes of Health to make sure we can do this in a legally compliant way,” he said.

“Let’s face it—we’re not going to do research if the NIH tells us we can’t do research," Thornton said. "You know, it’s not going to happen. The point I’m trying to make, and I’ll try to be a little more blunt here, the point I’m trying to make is that it makes sense in states that have legal programs to at least be able to conduct the necessary research to determine if there are specific strains that affect certain disease conditions. And we’ll work within the confines of the law to make sure we’re doing that in the most appropriate manner.

"We believe the research is necessary and we’ll work with the parties—federal, state and otherwise—to get to a point where we can do that research. We believe it’s necessary."

Capital New York
June 5, 2015
LIJ Applies for Medical Marijuana License
By Dan Goldberg

North Shore-LIJ Health System, in partnership with a Colorado-based marijuana company, has applied for a medical marijuana license from the state of New York.
The application, the first announced by a health system, is the latest example of C.E.O. Michael Dowling's eagerness to pursue ventures outside the traditional role of a hospital, even to areas where other health systems have shied away.
Two years ago, LIJ created CareConnect, a health insurance company offering plans on the exchange created by the Affordable Care Act, the only private health system in New York to do so. Other academic medical centers said insurance was not one of their core competencies, but LIJ pushed forward and CareConnect continues to expand.
Medical marijuana is an even bolder step because the drug remains illegal under federal law, and health systems rely on government payments from Medicare and Medicaid to survive. Though the Obama administration has pledged to look the other way, many hospitals worry the next administration might take a different approach.
Terence Lynam, spokesman for North Shore-LIJ, said he felt New York's tightly regulated medical marijuana program provided the health system with plenty of legal protection.
The health system is also not investing any funds into the program, Lynam said. The money is being raised by Silverpeak Apothecary, which is licensed in Colorado.
The two entities formed a new corporation, Silverpeak NY LLC, to apply for the license.
“As the largest healthcare provider in the New York metropolitan area with 19 hospitals and more than 400 outpatient physician practices throughout New York City, Long Island and Westchester County, North Shore-LIJ recognizes the importance of our patients having access to every legal option to manage the symptoms of their illness, if there is clinical evidence to support marijuana's use for the condition,” Dowling said in a statement.
LIJ also intends to leverage its research arm, the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, to advance the science behind medical marijuana, looking at its effects on diseases such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, chronic pain, epilepsy, movement disorders and other neurologic conditions, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s, lupus and other autoimmune diseases, leukemia and other cancers.
Medical marijuana applications are due today, and some three dozen companies are set to apply for one of five licenses, which are expected to be awarded by the state next month.
State officials insist medical marijuana will be available in January, an ambitious timeline that will require companies to grow and distribute across the state in less than six months

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