Ithaca, N.Y. — Twenty medical marijuana dispensaries are expected to open across New York by next year under a new state law.

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It’s unclear, however, where the dispensaries will go. Evan Nison, a 2012 graduate of Ithaca College, is working to make sure one of them ends up in Ithaca.

“I think the Southern Tier is going to need to be serviced by this industry,” says Nison, director of the East Coast Cannabis Division of Terra Tech, a California-based company. “I want to personally make sure that Ithaca isn’t overlooked.”

Terra Tech is the first U.S. company on the stock market to produce and sell medical marijuana, and has already raised $6.8 million (with plans to raise an additional $15 million), according to Syracuse.com.

Hydroponic lettuce being grown at Terra Tech’s facilities. The publicly-traded company is looking to open a medical marijuana dispensary in New York state.
Hydroponic lettuce being grown at Terra Tech’s facilities. The publicly-traded company is looking to open a medical marijuana dispensary in New York state.

Terra Tech already grows medical marijuana in California and was recently awarded several licenses for Nevada in “a very competitive process,” according to Nison. (Terra Tech also grows basils, herbs and vegetables hydroponically, Nison said.)

Now, the company is looking to capitalize on a new market in New York. A law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in September 2014 made New York the 23rd state to allow medical marijuana in some form, according to CNN.

The law does not allow for the sale of smokable marijuana products or edibles. Instead, the law allow for patients to use things like “transdermal patches or pills — things like that,” Nison says.

“It’s a very medical-based program,” Nison says.

The state will give out licenses to five companies, and each company can have four dispensaries. The goal is to put medical marijuana in patients’ hands by the start of 2016, according to Nison.

Some say the measure doesn’t do enough to make sure patients who could benefit from medical marijuana have access to it. Others worry about the potential for abuse and see medical marijuana as something of a Trojan horse for legalized pot.

Nison, 25, says he first became involved with drug reform efforts in his home-state of New Jersey.

Nison. Photo courtesy of Terra Tech’s Facebook page
Nison. Photo courtesy of Terra Tech’s Facebook page

When he came to Ithaca for college, he helped start the IC chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Nison then worked with Mayor Svante Myrick to help publicize New York’s Good Samaritan Law, which allows bystanders in drug emergencies to call 911 for help without fear of prosecution during overdoses.

Along the way, the IC business major came to consider Ithaca a sort of home away from home.

“I love Ithaca and I’m going to move back,” says Nison, who is currently working in New Jersey.

Terra Tech is already looking at different possible locations within Ithaca for dispensaries, according to Nison. Nison wouldn’t divulge what those locations are, saying there’s “so much competition” in the market.

Nison said the benefits of medical marijuana are clear. He said that while at Ithaca College he met about a dozen cancer patients in the Ithaca area who wanted medical marijuana but didn’t want to have to break the law to get it.

“I think Ithacans are really open-minded and eager for holistic alternatives that are safer than current medications,” Nison said. “And so I think it would be a great fit for the whole Southern Tier.”


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.