Six Long Island companies have applied to the state for licenses to dispense medical marijuana, ranging from a medical business in Sea Cliff, to a Carle Place enterprise with ties to Israel and Canada, to the behemoth North Shore-LIJ Health System.
The Department of Health is expected next month to award up to five licenses statewide, with each licensee allowed to operate four dispensaries. The program is expected to start in January.
The six companies on the Island are among 43 across New York that applied for licenses. What characterizes the local firms is their readiness to make marijuana more like a drug by using specific strains and doses that produce predictable, verifiable responses.
Leaders of the organizations praised New York's law, which is stricter than those in many of the other 22 states that allow medical marijuana use. It does not allow the plant to be smoked or eaten, and the health commissioner must approve all forms that are used, such as drops, vapor or capsules.
"This is almost like a pilot project," said Dr. Larry Good, a gastroenterologist and chief executive of Compassionate Care Center of New York, based in Carle Place. "You are going to be able to understand how to utilize the science, which is just emerging."
The company, with 22 employees, has partnered with MedReleaf Corp., a Canadian manufacturer of medical-grade cannabis, and with Tikun Olam, the first and largest supplier of medical cannabis in Israel.
"Part of my responsibility is to show that we are serious about this and that it's not an end run around to recreational marijuana," Good said.
Andrei Bogolubov, executive vice president of PalliaTech, based in Sea Cliff, said his company also supported New York's approach.
"We think it sets a national standard, and we think it's the way to go," he said.
He praised the fact that the regulations require measurable, controlled doses.
"There's absolutely nothing like that anywhere else in the country," Bogolubov said. "Now, you can actually follow a treatment and capture clinical data."
His company already has one of New Jersey's six medical marijuana licenses, given in 2010, and operates one of four state testing labs in Colorado.
Dean Petkanas is chief executive of KannaLife Sciences Inc. in Lloyd Harbor. His company, with five employees, has been researching cannabinoids -- the chemical compounds in marijuana -- to treat hepatic encephalopathy, toxic substances in the brain in those with liver failure, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, associated with the repetitive head trauma seen in football players.
He said he is hopeful his company will be given a license. "This is what we believe we can do," he said.
Dr. Jeremy Koppel, an Alzheimer's disease researcher at North Shore-LIJ's Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, said the state's rigorous approach will be beneficial for both physicians and patients.
North Shore-LIJ entered into a partnership with a Colorado-based medical cannabis company to form Silverpeak LLC. Koppel, at some point, wants to study marijuana's use in treating Alzheimer's patients who have agitation and anxiety.
"There's a tremendous need for research," he said. "Our mission is to determine for what uses medical marijuana is helpful and what strains [work best], in what dose and at what risk."
In medical studies, marijuana has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and pain relief properties. It is used for a range of conditions, including epilepsy and cancer treatment.
Dr. Dean Pappas, co-founder of Nepenthea LLC in Rocky Point, also an applicant, issued a statement complimenting the state "on its foresight in implementing this far-reaching program designed to address the medical care of patients in need."
A sixth company listed as an applicant by the state Health Department -- NY Growing Partners LLC, in Woodbury -- could not be reached Friday for comment.