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Columbia Care introduces medical marijuana in pill form


A new form of medical marijuana — a controlled-dose, solid-fill pill — is now available at Columbia Care’s medical marijuana dispensary in Riverhead.

The pills — available to patients with “fine motor control limitations caused by neuropathy,” as well as those with multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and inflammatory bowel disease — are designed to make it easier for patients to receive the correct prescription amount.

“I think it establishes a new paradigm for expectations among patients and doctors,” Nicholas Vita, Columbia Care’s CEO, said in an interview Thursday. “And it allows us to show the world that medical marijuana is a medicine, even to the skeptics, and it can be utilized and administered and dosed in a very precise way.”

The pills are powder based rather than liquid, making them easier for patients and doctors to store and handle, Mr. Vita said. They also don’t run the risk of leakage like a liquid based pill.

Capsules are a subtler alternative to the company’s other two medical marijuana forms — vaporizing pens and sublingual tinctures, which are taken with an eyedropper under the tongue.

“People are more accustomed to seeing people take pills when they get a headache or have any other sort of healthcare issue,” he said.

The pills, which come in three dosages, have been available to patients beginning this week. The goal is to introduce them to other licensed jurisdictions in Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington D.C. in 2017.

Mr. Vita said the pill is something Columbia Care developed through its chemistry team over the course of a year at the company’s Rochester facility.

He said the pills will be given as an alternative option to the vaporizing pens and sublingual tinctures, rather than replacing those prescription types completely.

“Our goal is provide patients with the widest variety of alternative formulation and delivery method,” Mr. Vita said. “Every person has their own set of conditions and their own set of symptoms they’re trying to deal with.”

Compared to vaporizing pens, which has a “faster onset of action,” the capsules are believed to have a longer duration life, and could require fewer doses per day and potentially better long-term symptom control, he said.

Columbia Care opened in Riverhead in January, making it the only medical marijuana dispensary in Suffolk County and one of two on Long Island. The company has a total of four dispensaries in New York and nearly 20 across the country, making it both the first and the largest medical marijuana healthcare company to operate dispensaries and cultivation centers across the country.

Photo credit: Paul Squire, file

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