18 Months ago, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act, which would allow health officials to have a new certification process for patients who are seriously ill and and in need of medical marijuana. Last fall, Gov. Cuomo revealed that the first dispensary in the state would be opened in January 2016 in New York City, but no further details were divulged.

Five companies were licensed to grow marijuana in New York and Columbia Care will be the first to open for business in Union Square on Thursday (January 7) as well as in White Plains, NY located in nearby Westchester County. Other dispensaries will be opened in Queens, the Bronx and Murray Hill section of Manhattan later this month. State law requires that patients must first be cleared by a state-approved doctor and then register with the Health Department, as well as acquire a registry identification card before they can purchase the drug for consumption.

Currently, the amount of doctors certified to prescribe the product in New York has not been revealed. Advocates for medical marijuana feel that the lack of available information might make it difficult for patients in need to access the drug.

We are looking forward to seeing the additional information and details about the program,” said Julie Netherland of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Patients in New York have been waiting a long time for the day when they can legally purchase medical marijuana. We hope the program roll out goes smoothly and that patients will finally have some relief from their suffering.