First marijuana dispensary proposed for Sunset Park

Sunset Park is one step closer to having its first marijuana dispensary.

Napenthea LLC made a presentation at Community Board 7 on Monday, January 30 to discuss its proposal to bring a medical marijuana facility to 4614 Fifth Avenue, where it currently has a pending lease.

The company’s COO Christopher Etts, patient advocate Jennifer Live, and Paul Bigilin, head of security, discussed the proposal with the board’s Health Committee, which voted in favor of it and will recommend approval to the full board during its monthly board meeting on Wednesday, February 15. Napenthea hopes to snag one of five licenses to be issued by the New York State Department of Health (DOH).

“We don’t have a license anywhere yet and it’s a startup,” said Etts. “But we are probably one of the few that are owned, financed, the whole nine yards, by local physicians. There are only three non-physicians in the group.”

Etts discussed the procedure should the facility come to fruition. “We will only be dispensing medical marijuana products,” he said, adding that it will be safe. “The amount of security (will be) absolutely incredible. We’re going to have several cameras and card readers. People that are that are enrolled in the program will have a medical marijuana card or their caregivers will have one to receive the medical marijuana. No one is allowed in the dispensary except for employees and people with medical marijuana cards.”

According to Etts, conditions treated would include HIV, AIDS, ALS, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, cancer, neuropathy, spinal cord injuries and Crohn’s disease. “It’s very regulated and strict,” he stressed.

Live spoke about her daughter’s health struggles and the benefits for her of being on medical marijuana. “My daughter had wasting syndrome as a result of some of her other conditions,” said Live, who took her daughter, now 16, to Ulster County to one of the companies that had received a license.

She also spoke emotionally about her daughter’s progress since receiving the treatment. “Before the program, my daughter was about 70 pounds and her heart was dying; she had a failure to thrive,” she explained. “They called hospice and they wanted me to put her on a morphine pump and I understood that would be the end of her. She was 14 at the time. And now, as a medical marijuana patient, she’s 120 pounds, and in school for the first time since kindergarten. She is 16 and got to attend a high school dance for the first time and her quality-of-life is different.”

Chair of the Health Committee Cynthia Gonzalez voiced some potential concerns, “like buzz driving, or people becoming psychotic,” that are reported on. “Will this spiral out of control?” she asked. “I’m concerned because it’s in my neighborhood and frankly those places that treat opioid problems, there’s a population that comes with them that is not what we’re trying to get more of.”

If the board approves the facility, it will send a letter to the DOH supporting the application.

“We understand that within the next month to two months, DOH is going to make their five picks, but they won’t bring them into the system yet; they’re going to say, we are going to phase you in,” Etts said. “How they phase people in, they haven’t told us yet.”

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