Kyle Kingsley, CEO of Empire State Health Solutions, is optimistic that his company will be one of five chosen as a licensed medical marijuana manufacturer in New York state this year.
Empire State Health Solutions’ sister company, Minnesota Medical Solutions, both under parent company Vireo Health, was one of two companies awarded a license in Minnesota last year under a law similar to New York’s Compassionate Care Act of 2014, which legalized the manufacture and sale of medical marijuana. Minnesota Medical Solutions will begin distributing marijuana July 1.
“When we saw the New York regulations, we were ecstatic because it was exactly what we’re doing in Minnesota,” Kingsley said last week as he and COO Michael Newell toured the state. “So we’re very excited about the New York law, we’re excited about the quality requirements, which are going to be difficult for most applicants to fulfill. We already have those systems in place.”
Kingsley says Empire State Health Solutions enters an industry hobbled by its image and history, and a stigma that too often focuses on the plant and not nearly enough on the patient.
“[The medicine] just happens to be attached to a plant that has this mythology and this recreational use around it,” he said. “I think aspirin would be in a different place if willow bark had that recreational value. I think that it’s actually held back the medicinal aspects of this plant.”
Kingsley, a physician himself, said Empire State Health Solutions is first and foremost a team of scientists, chemists and physicians coming together to produce medicine in a well-regulated, precise and consistent way, because not only does New York state have to adjust to manufacturing medicinal marijuana, doctors will have to adjust to prescribing it.
“Physicians need to know that these are precisely formulated medicines, and that’s something you just can’t rely on in the industry right now,” he said. “If I’m going to write a prescription for 10 milligrams of THC, I need to know that the provider of that is going to execute and make that happen.”
Kingsley said the Compassionate Care Act and Minnesota’s law are unique in the nation in their strict quality controls, the requirement of a carbon-dioxide extraction method, well-defined dosing requirements and strict oversight.
Following New York’s regulations, his company would produce oils for use in vaporizers, capsules and oral tinctures derived from cannabis. The law prohibits the smoking of marijuana as a delivery mechanism.
Empire State Health Solutions will submit its application to the state by the June 5 deadline, and, if licensed, Kingsley would expect to be serving patients by January 2016.
The company has already gained the support of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors and the town of Perth to build its manufacturing facility in the town’s Tryon Technology Park, promising to create at least 75 jobs over the next three years, if licensed.
Michael Newell, COO of Empire State Health Solutions, grew up in Amsterdam and said the 20-acre site turned out to be “the perfect place” to set up their manufacturing facility.
“We wanted to find a location that was centrally located in the state so that we would have the ability to serve patients throughout the state,” he said. “And it’s always been important to me and it’s important to Empire State Health Solutions that wherever we put our manufacturing facility that we could have an economic impact on the community, that we could make the community a better place.”
The company expects to invest $6 million to $8 million in its initial phases. It would be the first tenant of the Tryon park and its anchor. Newell said Empire State Health Solutions would not pursue a payment in lieu of taxes agreement, a common incentive used to attract large companies to an area.
“We felt that it would be better for the community that we could do that without taking any sort of economic incentives,” he said.
Under the Compassionate Care Act, patients with certain serious conditions can be certified by a health care provider to receive medical marijuana as a treatment.
“In the end, what this is about is changing the quality of life for these patients who have these debilitating diseases and can’t find relief in any other way,” said Newell. “And when they find relief from these medications, it literally changes the quality of their life, whether it’s a young child with a seizure disorder or someone with a terminal illness.”