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Vireo cuts medical marijuana price for union members in N.Y.

Vireo cuts medical marijuana price for union members in N.Y.

2.5 million members of 3,000 unions statewide eligible starting on Labor Day
Vireo cuts medical marijuana price for union members in N.Y.
Chuck Schmitt inspects a medical marijuana plant at Vireo Health of New York on Nov. 11, 2015.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

A Capital Region medical marijuana firm is offering discounts to more than 2.5 million union members and retirees across New York state.

Vireo Health of New York grows and processes cannabis at a 40,000-square-foot facility in Fulton County and sells extracts at dispensaries in Albany and three other cities.

It announced Friday that it would give a $25 discount on the first purchase and a 10 percent discount on subsequent purchases to any current or retired member of any of the roughly 3,000 unions affiliated with the New York State AFL-CIO.

Fittingly, the discount program begins on Labor Day. Patients need only present a union card or other proof of affiliation to claim their discount.

The promotion matches two recurring trends in Vireo’s business model: Support for organized labor (its own workforce is unionized) and efforts to boost its share of New York’s growing but still small medical marijuana market.

Vireo said Friday that this is the first such discount program for union members. In November 2017, it offered what it said was the first-ever Cyber Monday sale on medical marijuana in New York. In April 2017, it rolled out what it called the first-ever medical marijuana home delivery program in the state.

Vireo continues to offer delivery in and around New York City.

Medical marijuana got off to a slow start after its roll-out in New York state in January 2016, due in part to a limited availability of product outside metropolitan areas and a limited number of medical providers being registered to certify that patients have a legitimate medical need for marijuana extracts.

The number of registered health care providers and certified patients is steadily increasing but is still a small fraction of the state’s population.

Vireo has not only worked to boost its medicinal sales, it has positioned itself to supply recreational marijuana, should it become legal in New York state, as endorsed in July in a state Department of Health report.

Ari Hoffnung, CEO of Vireo Health of New York, told The Daily Gazette in July that his company’s high-tech grow facility occupies just one of the 20 acres it owns in the Tryon Industrial Park in Fulton County. If recreational marijuana were legalized in New York, Vireo would greatly expand the facility and its workforce, he said.

“Certainly, if New York was to allow for adult use of marijuana, the demand for products that we manufacture in our Fulton County facility would increase,” he said. “We are committed to be in Fulton County for many, many years to come.”

The company said it will make its voice heard in the ongoing deliberations over legalizing recreational marijuana, and will probably participate in the upcoming listening sessions state officials will host across New York starting next week.

Hoffnung indicated in a news release Friday that the discounts for union members are a promotional effort as much as a sign of support for organized labor.

“This program is designed to make our products more affordable and to educate New York’s union members about the medicinal benefits of marijuana as an alternative to opioids,” he said.

Parent company Vireo Health also has operations in Minnesota and Pennsylvania, and those workforces are unionized, as well.

Vireo Health of New York employees are represented by the 13,000-member Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW. Its president, John Durso, urged union members who need medical marijuana to give their business to unionized dispensaries.

“We cannot support retailers — supermarkets, pharmacies and dispensaries — that do not offer family-sustaining wages and benefits to their employees,” he said in the news release.

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