Medical marijuana will soon be available for dropoff at patients’ front doors, with the New York Health Department’s approval of its first home delivery program.
Vireo Health, one of the state’s five registered organizations, announced Wednesday that home deliveries will start within 90 days. The program will launch on Long Island and in Westchester and all five New York City boroughs.
“Home delivery will not only help us to improve upon current services, but to also expand our reach to those patients who are unable to travel,” Vireo chief medical officer Stephen Dahmer said in a news release.
Security and safety are issues that registered organizations are considering carefully. Under Vireo’s program, all deliveries will be managed exclusively by two of its employees, and company-owned vehicles will be equipped with safety features such as GPS tracking devices.
Advocates and local officials have long touted home delivery as a way to expand access to the program and serve severely ill patients who are unable to travel. As of Jan. 9, there were 816 registered practitioners for more than 12,000 patients.
Atlantic Beach resident Missy Miller, newly elected to the state Assembly, previously told Newsday that it was an “enormous” ordeal to travel to the dispensary with her 16-year-old son Oliver, who has epilepsy. “A home delivery option would be huge,” said Miller (R-Long Beach).
The program will initially operate in areas with the most dispensaries. Of the 19 open dispensaries, the majority are clustered in southern New York. On Long Island, there is one dispensary in Lake Success and another in Riverhead.
Dispensaries are spread out thinly across upstate New York, leading some patients to travel hours in search of the appropriate medicine. Buffalo resident Lisa Valle, 44, said that she has traveled six hours to procure medicine for her 9-year-old daughter Maya, who has a neuropathy.
“Upstate New York really has gotten the shaft on the whole program, and it’s very limiting to a lot of people,” Valle said.
The state’s remaining registered organizations, Bloomfield Industries, Columbia Care NY, Etain and Pharmacann, have yet to announce home delivery. There is another application pending with the Health Department, a representative confirmed Wednesday.
Assemb. Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) said that the Health Department is taking “important steps to ensuring access to patients in need.” Wednesday’s announcement builds upon the department’s recent decisions to include chronic pain as a qualifying condition and to allow nurse practitioners to certify patients, Gottfried added.