Wallkill will allow Valley Agriceuticals to grow medical marijuana

Wallkill will allow Valley Agriceuticals to grow medical marijuana

By Dan Goldberg

4:35 p.m. | Apr. 22, 2015 –

A Purchase-based company that has teamed with an Israeli medical marijuana grower has received permission from the town of Wallkill, in Orange County, to grow marijuana there.

The company, Valley Agriceuticals, plans to apply for a license from the state as soon as the Department of Health releases its requests for proposals.

The R.F.P., expected to be come out soon, will require a relatively quick turnaround if the state is to keep its pledge to have a medical marijuana program up and running by January.

The state has offered no indication of when it will award licenses to five companies, each of which will be expected to operate four dispensaries across the state, but Erik Holling, president of Valley Agriceuticals, isn’t inclined to wait.

He, along with his partner, Shay Avraham Sarid, founder of Seach, one of the largest medical cannabis farms in Israel, will grow marijuana on a 110-acre property. Holling said that in the coming weeks he will begin construction on a 60,000 square-foot space for a greenhouse. A separate 40,000 square-foot facility will be used as a service building.

That’s enough space for the first three years, they estimate, and there are backup sites if necessary.

“The town, with overwhelming support, approved our entrance into the community,” Holling said. “We’re building our infrastructure out so once we get the license, if we are fortunate enough to get the license, we would put seeds in the ground the next day.”

The Times Herald-Record reported the Valley Agriceuticals resolution passed, 5-0, after Walkill officials stressed the agricultural preservation aspects of the plan. The alternative, they feared, was a sub-lot development project.

Supervisor Dan Depew was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

If awarded a license, Holling would like to locate his dispensaries in Long Island, Westchester, Syracuse and Albany. He would not provide anything more specific, but those are four prime locations, likely to be sought by several organizations. Some company will likely have to serve the North Country, Buffalo and possibly other parts of the state.

The uncertainty of where the state will place dispensaries, and what price the state will allow companies to charge for their medical marijuana, has deterred some from New York’s market, but those with sufficient capital, and the stomach to operate at a loss for the first couple years, are already making their case both in town meetings and through the media.

Holling is one of several entrepreneurs who have declared their intent to apply for a New York license.

In addition to those who would like a license to grow, ancillary businesses are popping up across the state.

One Buffalo man is looking to create the Medical Marijuana Cultivators and Process Workers Union.

Each potential licensee touts their experience hoping to appeal to local communities, their compassion, looking to appeal to advocates, and their security, looking to appeal to a Cuomo administration that boasts of having one of the most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs in the country, and one wary of a U.S. Attorney shutting the program down before it gets off the ground.

The regulations, which were finalized last month, have been criticized by many advocates for being overly restrictive.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who sponsored the medical marijuana law, has called them “gratuitously cruel,” but Holling said he thought New York was doing it right.

“I applaud it,” he said. “The stricter the better. We like to see the rules and regulations that they are bringing forth. We think it’s being done the right way.”

Asked if he’s just saying that to curry favor with the a potential government reviewer, he said, “no.”

“No pun intended, but it weeds out the rest of the people [who] aren’t going to do it the right way,” he said.

There is one rule that requires clarification.

New York does not allow marijuana—seeds or plants—to be imported from another state. So it isn’t yet clear how any grower will be able to begin an operation if it can’t bring the first plant or seed in to New York, unless the state’s health department creates a specific exemption.

But the other regulations are workable, Sarid said. The state is limiting growers to only five cannabinoid ratios of medical marijuana, but that should be enough to cover most patients’ needs.

“I expect we will hit 90 percent,” Sarid said. “The other 10 percent, it’s not that it wont work for them, but it will work with 75 percent efficiency.”

Holling said he has no desire to grow anything other than medical cannabis. Were New York ever to legalize recreational marijuana as several states have done, Valley Agriceuticals would have no interest in that world.

“It’s not in our interest, whatsoever,” Holling said.