New York MMJ Firm Hires Former Homeland Security, DEA Officials

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A company that has applied for a permit to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana in New York has hired the state’s former chief of homeland security and an ex-Drug Enforcement Administration official to prove it’s serious about security before officials begin selecting license winners in July.

Empire State Compassionate Care has hired Michael Balboni, who was New York’s top homeland security chief under governors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson. The company has also brought on Paul Higdon, a former DEA and Interpol official, according to the New York Daily News.

Empire State Compassionate Care applied for one of the state’s five coveted licenses to enter the medical marijuana industry. New York requires licensed medical marijuana businesses to have “the ability to maintain effective control against diversion of marijuana and medical marijuana products.”

The state has among the most stringent regulations in the country – only 10 ailments can be treated with MMJ, only five brands of cannabis will be authorized and the sale or use of smokeable medical marijuana is not allowed.

Still, there’s a rush to get into the industry – while the state has not revealed how many applications it has received, estimates range from 30 to 300, with each applicant submitting a non-refundable $10,000 fee to the New York Department of Health.