One of the five companies setting up medical marijuana dispensaries in New York for a Jan. 1st  launch told the Newsday Editorial Board something surprising today: New York officials are "keeping to their timeline like a Swiss watch." That's according to Nicholas Vita, a founder of Columbia Care.

The rollout of medical marijuana in New York only makes the news when there's a roadblock, such as the Riverhead Town Board considering a one-year moratorium on Columbia Care's dispensary there. Vita said a groundswell from potential patients and the Peconic Bay Medical Center this month has reversed the reception in Riverhead.

Because federal law bars marijuana use, the pills, liquids and oils must be dispensed to patients at specially designated dispensaries, instead of through pharmacies. Doctors who want to prescribe the drug must take a four-hour course and write a "recommendation" instead of a prescription. The patient then takes the recommendation to a state office to qualify for the medical marijuana program. Vita expects 1 percent to 1.5 percent of the population could qualify.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The state Department of Health and Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement have been meeting their deadlines like clockwork, Vita said, including a recent inspection of Columbia Care's "cultivation" facility in upstate Rochester, where the cannabis plants are grown.

This is an excerpt from The Point, the editorial board's inside look at politics and policy in New York. The newsletter is sent out each afternoon, Monday through Friday. To subscribe, click here.