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ALBANY—Medical Marijuana Entrepreneur Moves to New York One of the most recognizable players in America’s young legal marijuana industry just moved to New York City to bid for a license to grow here.
Josh Stanley helped develop a strain of marijuana known as “Charlotte’s Web,” now famous for its use in treating pediatric epilepsy.
Telegenic and something of a natural marketer, Stanley is a cannabis-industry celebrity. He was influential in the development of Colorado’s mosts recent marijuana laws, appeared with his brothers on National Geographic’s 2012 television series “American Weed,” and gave a 2013 TED talk on the use of marijuana oils to treat epileptic conditions.
He’s in New York to pursue one of five licenses state health department officials are expected to issue in the coming months to grow marijuana.
I’m focusing everything right now on New York, because I truly believe that New York is the first state to get it right from a medical perspective
“You have 23, 24 states and the District of Columbia that have enacted cannabis legislation,” Stanley said. “And I’ve helped several of these states to the best of my ability. The thing about New York is they came about this from a very pragmatic, medically minded standpoint, Stanley said, referring to the state’s newly enacted medicinal marijuana law, passed in June this year, which allows only non-smokable forms of the drug.
Stanley said that emphasis on non-smoking applications will help further medical marijuana research.
“New York has taken a proactive approach to say, OK, we’re not going to smoke this. The state of New York, whether or not that was their intended goal, it’s going to have some incredible incredible positive ramifications,” Stanley said.
He believes the narrowness of the marijuana program that was finally approved here, reluctantly, by Governor Andrew Cuomo, will end up helping New York become the “epicenter” of medical marijuana research and development.
“It’s important to note that, I’m not in the business of just selling pot, or just regular marijuana,” Stanley said.
We’re in the business of helping to create a new biotech revolution around this cannabinoid science
In November 2014, Stanley and his New York company, Citiva LLC, signed a $15,000 a month lobbying contract with Mercury Public Affairs in their bid to help get a license in New York state. It’s one of the most expensive contracts signed so far, among the dozens of companies vying for the handful of available licenses.
Stanley’s career in medical marijuana came about almost accidentally. Back in 2007, he was a residential real estate developer in Denver, Colorado with a dangerous hobby.
“Unfortunately, I was also flying my paraglider a lot. I’m really good at flying that thing but I’m bad at landing it. So I fell out of the sky a couple of times and it ended me up in a series of back surgeries. and unfortunately through those surgeries I became chemically dependent on opiates,” he said.
A friend gave him a cannabis tincture.
“He said give this a try, and about two and a half weeks later I was off all opiates. I didn’t need them, didn’t have the withdrawal. It was just really something!” Stanley said.
In early 2008, the residential real estate market crashed, and Stanley took it as a sign. He opened a medicinal marijuana clinic.
He said his primary interest is in working with clinicians and researchers in New York to develop new strains of medical marijuana that can be used to treat other specific conditions, and expressed hope that the drug could be used to treat virtually any type of neurological disorder, including conditions for which doctors have yet to find effective cures, such as multiple sclerosis and lupus.
Stanley said he’d already been in discussions with doctors and researchers in New York state, although he declined to say whom he had spoken with.
But he said medical marijuana could also be an economic driver in upstate New York and a boon to veterans throughout the state, for multiple reasons. Recently returned veterans are experiencing record rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. While PTSD isn’t currently one of the conditions included among those the drug is allowed to treat in New York, Stanley expressed hope that someday it could be. And he said he hoped to hire veterans, possibly from the Fort Drum area in upstate New York, to work in his retail clinics or in the manufacturing facility if he’s granted a license.
Asked if he feared local stigma surrounding the growth of a plant that is still technically illegal at the federal level, he said he had already embarked on an educational campaign, and plans to visit and talk with stakeholders in towns and communities as he plans his bid for the license.
“Just this week, I’ve been all over New York and I intend to be in every county, and to visit as many towns as I can.” he said. “This is an educational process. … We’re just coming out of 85 years of a lot of propaganda and fear that’s been surrounding this plant. It’s going to take some time.”