Medical Marijuana: Dispensary official talks treatment

BY: Bob Beckstead
When it comes to medical marijuana, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, according to a dispensary associate from Curaleaf, which operates a medical marijuana dispensary in Plattsburgh.

    Unlike regular medical prescriptions, medical marijuana can come in different forms and different levels and must be adjusted to the particular person, Steven Howell said during a “Cannabis 101” presentation Wednesday in Massena.

    “We’re going to try to make a match. Everybody is different. It’s a little more trial and error than something you get at Kinney Drugs,” Mr. Howell said.

    A patient might use the medical marijuana by vaping, smoking, putting it on the skin as a lotion, putting it under their tongue, ingesting a capsule or other forms.

    “We’ll work out what works for you. We’re going to try and find you the right product,” Mr. Howell told the more than 30 people who were on hand for the Massena presentation.

    He said the product will take effect in 15 to 20 minutes if vaping, and will last about two to three hours. If the person ingests a capsule, the product goes into the digestive system and takes about two hours to kick in. It takes effect in about 15 to 30 minutes if it’s taken under the tongue.

    Mr. Howell suggested precautions be taken for the initial use.

    “You want to do this at home the first couple of times to make sure it’s the right product,” he said.

    He also suggested having another person on hand in case assistance was needed.

    Individuals need a qualifying condition to receive permission to use medical marijuana. Those include cancer, chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, Huntington’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease or a spinal cord injury with spasticity.

    Mr. Howell said many of the patients receive medical marijuana for cancer. Chronic pain is also high on the list.

    “It’s a pretty big umbrella,” he said.

    PTSD is a common problem for many people, Mr. Howell said.

    “Anxiety falls under that umbrella as well,” he said.

    Other patients use it to help beat an opioid use disorder.

    “We have so many that say, ‘I want to get off these hard, addictive drugs,’ They want to try something less invasive,” Mr. Howell said.

    Those who attended Wednesday’s presentation ranged in ages, and Mr. Howell said their oldest patient is 95 years old.

    The first step in receiving medical marijuana is to visit ny.curaleaf.com to find a registered practitioner who will qualify the person for the program. Some are located locally, while others can be found in Plattsburgh. Potential patients can also visit the New York Department of Medical Marijuana Program site at health.ny.gov/regulations/medical_marijuana/.

    Once a person has been qualified, they’ll receive certification to purchase medical marijuana. Those certifications are good for up to one year. A recent rule change allows patients to receive a temporary certification card immediately, which can be used until they received their permanent card.

    Patients must register with the state Department of Health at my.ny.gov. Their card will be delivered in about one to two weeks.

    Then they visit the dispensary in Plattsburgh, where they’ll meet with a pharmacist to work out the correct program for the patient. The first consultation with the pharmacist is free, and $150 after that. They’re open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, but plan to eventually be open five to six days a week, and can take cash only at this point. If marijuana is legalized in the state, Mr. Howell said they could begin accepting insurance.

    The final step is to purchase the medical marijuana to help with the qualifying condition.

    “We’re working on a delivery system (to get the medical marijuana to patients), but that’s a way in the future,” Mr. Howell said.

    For more information on Curaleaf NY, visit ny.curaleaf.com.