A major step toward dispensaries


PROGRAMMING NOTE: We’ll be off for Thanksgiving this Thursday and Friday but back to our normal schedule on Monday, Nov. 28.

Good morning and welcome to Monday’s New York Health Care newsletter, where we keep you posted on what’s coming up this week in health care news, and offer a look back at the important news from last week.

Today’s the day! Almost two months after the application deadline — and nearly two years after the state legalized marijuana — cannabis regulators are expected to approve New York’s first adult-use retail dispensary licenses.

The Cannabis Control Board is slated to take up some conditional adult-use retail dispensary license applications when it meets this morning. In total, the state will award 150 CAURD licenses, which are reserved for New Yorkers with business experience and prior marijuana convictions. About three dozen applicants will go before the panel for approval today.

The expected action comes despite a legal challenge that has barred the state from moving forward with CAURD licenses in five of the program’s 14 geographic regions, putting about 60 licenses on hold. And that number could grow if similar lawsuits spring up targeting other regions.

But while the Cannabis Control Board is finally moving ahead with the first dispensary licenses, it’s still unclear how long it will be before New Yorkers can legally purchase marijuana — or whether the state will meet its year-end goal for at least some legal sales. The Office of Cannabis Management noted in a resolution that applicants approved today “shall not begin operations until the completion of a secondary supplemental application to the satisfaction of the Office, including completing a notification to the appropriate municipality where the conditional adult-use retail dispensary will be located.”

Applicants who are awarded licenses will receive support from a new social equity fund, which will provide them with retail locations and financing for other start-up expenses. The New York Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund announced Friday that 10 teams of firms have been awarded bids to design and construct 150 turn-key sites.

The Social Equity Servicing Corporation said it’s “currently working to identify dispensary sites that will be leased by the fund’s operating subsidiary and subleased to the dispensary operators.” That process, it noted, is “ongoing and is expected to continue through 2023.”

… In addition to approving the first dispensary licenses, the Cannabis Control Board will also take up new proposed adult-use program regulations that would fully launch New York’s adult-use program. The Office of Cannabis Management publicly released those regulations over the weekend. If approved, those proposed rules will enter a 60-day public comment period.

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IMPROPER PAYMENTS — POLITICO’s Shannon Young: New York’s outdated unemployment insurance system likely contributed to at least $11 billion in improper payments during the Covid-19 pandemic, an audit from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found.

The report released Tuesday examined claims made through the state Department of Labor’s unemployment insurance system from January 2020 to March 2022 — a period in which applications skyrocketed due to pandemic-related job losses. It found that the state’s failure to replace the outdated system as long advised, coupled with “ad hoc workarounds,” led to “weakened oversight and ultimately contributed to an estimated billions of dollars in improper payments.”

BUDGET REQUESTS — POLITICO’s Joseph Spector: Tighten your belts. That’s the message from the Hochul administration this week in a memo to state commissioners who were told not to increase their spending requests for the upcoming fiscal year that starts April 1.

Hochul will present her budget proposal to lawmakers in late January. Late Tuesday, Budget Director Robert Mujica wrote to the commissioners of the state’s 59 executive agencies, telling them not to seek operating budget hikes that are higher than this year’s allocation. He cited growing deficits and an uncertain economy.

The state’s budget financial plan anticipates a deficit of $148 million next fiscal year that is estimated to balloon to $3.5 billion in the 2025-26 fiscal year and $6 billion in the 2027-28 fiscal year. Mujica said the state is boosting its reserve funds to prepare for any downturn, but limited spending will be needed. The state budget approved last April hit a record $220 billion, with a 7 percent increase in school aid.

WE LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU: This roundup is for you! Send news tips, health tips, ideas, criticisms and corrections to [email protected].

NOW WE KNOW — “Pfizer said Friday that its updated COVID-19 booster may offer some protection against newly emerging omicron mutants even though it’s not an exact match,” The Associated Press reports.

TODAY’S TIP — Check out the USDA’s answers to frequently asked food safety questions before preparing Thanksgiving dinner.

MAKE SURE TO FOLLOW Shannon @ShannonYoung413 on Twitter. And for all New Jersey health news, check out Daniel Han, @danieljhan_.

STUDY THIS — Via the Los Angeles Times: “As the NFL sought to resume play during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, with some teams choosing to allow fans into stadiums, league officials insisted that football crowds had no negative impact on public health. … But new research suggests that even at significantly reduced capacity, stadiums with 20,000 or more in attendance were associated with subsequent case spikes in surrounding communities.”

The Times Union reports on how suicide deaths among Capital Region EMTs is prompting a “push for counseling, support.”

A new report from the New York City public advocate suggests that Mayor Eric Adams’ efforts to address mental health have fallen short, The New York Times reports.

A Saturday mass shooting at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub killed at least five people and wounded more than a dozen others, CNN reports.

The Wall Street Journal breaks down “what symptoms to watch for and when to worry” as RSV cases surge.

“A federal judge on Friday sentenced disgraced Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes to more than 11 years in prison,” The Associated Press reports.

Kaiser Health News reports that “the popularity of at-home covid tests has amplified calls from public health researchers and diagnostic companies to make home testing similarly routine for sexually transmitted diseases. But FDA guidelines are lagging.”

STAT looks at how “mRNA drugs with a built-in ‘copy machine’ could lead to safer, more effective therapies.”

“Pharmaceutical companies could be made to disclose prices and deals agreed for any products they make to fight future global health emergencies, under new rules that would govern a World Health Organization-backed pandemic accord,” Reuters reports.

POLITICO’s Alice Miranda Ollstein and Megan Messerly report that abortion opponents are pushing the GOP to campaign more openly and forcefully against the procedure after the party suffered a string of losses in House, Senate, state legislative and ballot initiative fights.

Government veteran Lorraine Grillo, who runs City Hall as first deputy to Mayor Eric Adams, is leaving her post in the coming weeks, POLITICO’s Sally Goldernberg reports.

Gov. Kathy Hochul won an unexpectedly competitive election as feuding Democrats reluctantly set aside their ideological differences to avoid squandering the governorship, POLITICO’s Anna Gronewold reports. Her next challenge will be trying to replicate that peace.

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