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Decision on medical marijuana dispensaries expected from New York health officials this week

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ALBANY, New York — New York state health officials plan to announce this week the companies selected to operate medical marijuana dispensaries.

A spokesperson for the state Department of Health says Tuesday that the agency intends to identify the winning applicants for five available dispensary licenses by Friday.

Under a law passed last year, the state will authorize no more than five organizations, each of which could operate up to four dispensaries.

The program is expected to begin next year. Patients with certain diseases — including cancer, AIDS, Lou Gehrig's disease, epilepsy — will be allowed to get prescriptions to obtain forms of the drug that are edible or vaporized, but not smoked.

Some 43 organizations have submitted applications seeking a license.

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