BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The New York State Health Department wants to double the number of medical marijuana manufacturers from 5 to 10, but the companies currently part of the program are now suing the state to block that.
The lawsuit, filed last week in Albany, says the Compassionate Care Act -- which was signed into law in 2014 -- gave the health department the ability to register only 5 organizations. The health department has a different interpretation of the law and believes the commissioner can add more.
WEB EXTRA: Read the full lawsuit (includes other filed documents in the case).
In its suit, the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association, which represents the 5 current registered organizations, said, "The ROs (registered organizations) are still operating at a loss, are utilizing a fraction of their manufacturing capacities, and they have not yet come close to recouping the substantial investments they made into becoming pioneers in the Program."
The association said the five companies have collectively invested $50 million into medical marijuana in New York State.
The health department released the following statement to 2 On Your Side:
From Day 1, we made clear our commitment to the continued growth of this program so that the New Yorkers who qualify for this therapy have access to it. The Court's decision Friday not to block this expansion while the lawsuit is pending certainly helps those residents. We will continue to fight any attempts to block patients from the relief they deserve."
The New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association countered with its own statement:
Last week we took the first step in protecting the patients we serve on a regular basis across New York State. We are gratified by Judge Platkin's decision to have this case submitted expeditiously and look forward to continuing this in the courts over the next several months. Since New York's Medical Marijuana program got off the ground, there has been a rush that has led to a fragile foundation at best. DOH's decision to recklessly double the number of license holders will undoubtedly lead to the collapse of the industry. We've invested more than $50 million dollars over the last few years to make New York's program the best in the country. We are here for the right reasons, and we've shown that commitment to regulators, patients and physicians since day one. It's time that commitment to making New York's program the best in the country was matched by our partners in government."