HALFMOON -- A new medical marijuana dispensary is expected to open in the new year, following approval by the town Planning Board.
Fiorello Pharmaceuticals, a New York City-based medical marijuana company, plans to open at 1675 Route 9 by the end of the year, after getting the green light from the town Planning Board at its Nov. 13 meeting.
The shop will be called FP Wellness, and the company will operate out of a 1,917-square-foot space, according to project plans.
FP Wellness will handle the sale, storage, packaging and labeling of medical cannabis and related products containing cannabis, as permitted by New York state. The store will have an appointment-only policy.
"The Fiorello Pharmaceuticals dispensary in Halfmoon will provide a convenient location for New Yorkers to access their medicine in a safe and highly clinical environment," said Fiorello Pharmaceuticals officials, in a prepared statement. "We look forward to joining the community and providing New Yorkers with the medicine they need to treat life-threatening and debilitating conditions.”
According to plans submitted to the town, the store will have four employees and 14 parking spots. The space was previously home to Among Angels, a psychic and tarot-card-reading business.
Fiorello is building a medical marijuana production facility in Glenville and plans to open other dispensaries in Monroe, Nassau and New York counties.
FP Wellness will operate from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. Peak times are estimated by the company to fall between 10 and 11 a.m., and 4 to 8 p.m.
State lawmakers legalized marijuana for medical purposes in July 2014 but took time setting up the regulatory structure for its use. The state’s first dispensaries opened in January 2016.
Since then, officials have taken steps to expand legal use of the drug, including expanding prescribing powers to nurse practitioners and physician assistants, expanding the types of medical conditions that qualify for medical marijuana treatment, allowing home deliveries of the medication and allowing prospective patients and providers to enter dispensaries to learn about the products offered, which often include patches and ointments.
Dr. Eric Schnakenberg works at Community Care Family Medicine of Community Care Physicians in Clifton Park and is certified to prescribe marijuana. The Halfmoon dispensary will help his patients simply by providing them with a place nearby to get their medicine, he said.
Now, Schnakenberg’s patients must drive to one of two marijuana dispensaries in Albany.
“Oftentimes, people have to travel very far to get the medicine," he said. "They travel an hour to see (doctors). It’s been a problem that they’re traveling."
According to Schnakenberg, the number of physicians and nurses certified to prescribe medical marijuana in New York State has tripled over the past year, and demand for medical marijuana is on the rise.
But, he added, there’s still an “education gap that needs to be bridged,” to get more physicians used to the idea of prescribing marijuana.
Physicians, Schnakenberg said, have to work closely with pharmacists at marijuana dispensaries to care for patients who use the substances, though it is up to the pharmacies to determine patients' dosage size and the form of the medication that is best for them.
“You do have to kind of work with dispensaries," Schnakenberg said. "I’m in touch with the two Albany dispensaries. I’m aware of their practice, their pricing and their products."
Schnakenberg provides his patients with literature about medical marijuana options, but access to a pharmacist -- and having physicians involved in that conversation -- will go a long way toward normalizing the use of medical marijuana.
“I still think there’s some reluctance in the medical community to accept this as a legitimate treatment option for patients," he said. "This is a big learning curve. The more physicians see others doing medical cannabis, the more comfortable they’ll be in acknowledging that this is a legitimate treatment option."