The Southern Tier may soon be home to a budding new industry, and Binghamton University might help spark it.
As part of the Compassionate Care Act passed last July, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) is distributing five licenses by the end of this month which would allow qualified businesses to grow and sell medical marijuana starting in January. One of the 43 companies vying for the licenses, Salus Scientific, plans to set up shop in the Southern Tier and partner with BU’s pharmacy school for research if chosen.
“Pharmacy schools are all about educating young people on becoming pharmacists, and pharmacists are the most knowledgeable health care people in terms of medication and managing medication,” said Gloria Meredith, the dean of the Pharmacy School, which is set to open in 2017. “It is quite cool to be at the ground level. It’s important and exciting to have a partner that’s getting involved in this.”
The proposed 120,000 square foot Johnson City warehouse would include a cultivation facility as well as dispensaries in four towns across the state, including Vestal. This would provide patients suffering from illnesses like epilepsy and HIV/AIDS with medical marijuana, as well as open up possibilities of researching additional undiscovered benefits of cannabis.
She said the types of research would range from pharmaceutical, which looks at the effects on a cellular level, to outcome, which would gauge the effect the drug has on patients as a whole.
“I’m interested in medical marijuana because it has real potential to treat some serious illnesses,” Meredith said. “But nationwide, there has not been enough research.”
Salus co-founder Nicole Falcone has a cultivation license in Nevada, and her husband, Salus chairman and CEO Michael Falcone, has a background in realty and community development. Michael Falcone said they have assembled a team of cannabinoid researchers, chemists, healthcare specialists and physicians for the project.
“Our security team is every bit as strong as the science and research team and our financial plan is rock solid,” he wrote in an email. “So we are hopeful that DOH will see the merits of what we bring to the table and make a decision that includes us as one of the 5 operators here in NY.”
The company is interested in engaging the community and the University as much as possible, he said.
“We are so impressed with how well we have been received by the local politicians and economic development officials,” he wrote. “The goal is to help train people for a new and emerging industry piggy backing and cooperating with the new Pharmacy school at BU.”
Among these local politicians is Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, who was a co-sponsor of the Compassionate Care Act. She said she is excited that the Southern Tier might be home to the facility.
“A focus on science-based research and intention to partner with Binghamton University’s Pharmacy School brings together two state-of-the-art medical programs in one community, benefiting our strong healthcare delivery while growing the local economy,” she said.
Mr. Falcone added that the area was prime for this kind of industry, and that the community would receive a major economic boost from jobs associated with the construction and operations.
“The Southern Tier has such a long and rich tradition and history with respect to manufacturing, innovation, research and development and we would very much like to continue on with it through our work at Salus,” Mr. Falcone wrote. “We are talking about creating 200 jobs in the Tier to start, and if this takes off it could be even more.”