Today marks one year since the first medical marijuana sale in Lancaster County, and the operator of the only local dispensary says things are going well.
Ryan Smith is chief operating officer of the Manheim Township dispensary’s parent company, Cure Holdings. He said Thursday that the growth has shocked “even the most optimistic of all of our team members,” and he wouldn’t be surprised to see Pennsylvania’s overall market double in the next year.
“We couldn’t be happier,” he said. “Demand continues to grow; supply continues to grow.”
Smith wouldn’t disclose exact numbers but said the dispensary at 1866 Fruitville Pike has thousands of patients.
Most are from Lancaster and the surrounding counties, he said, and on average they come about one and a half to three times a month.
There has been a significant price reduction in the past year, he said, with the August approval of dry leaf or “flower” playing a big role.
Now, he says, a gram of flower usually costs $15 to $20 and is among the most popular forms of medical marijuana, as are vape cartridges.
Cure buys from all of the grower-processors currently selling in the state, Smith said, and more than half of those licensed have yet to start selling.
Gov. Tom Wolf said last month that medical marijuana was dispensed nearly 600,000 times to 83,000 people in the first year of Pennsylvania’s program, with sales grossing more than $132 million.
Smith noted that the number of people with medical marijuana cards represent less than 1 percent of Pennsylvania’s population, which census estimates put at about 12.8 million.
He also said the dispensary gets a lot of calls from people who ask what they need to do to be able to buy medical marijuana, or even didn’t realize that Pennsylvania had legalized it.
So, he said, the dispensary’s website has a section that summarizes how Pennsylvania’s program works, and lists some of the local participating doctors who are able to certify that a patient has a qualifying condition.
The state has a detailed explanation of how the program works at medicalmarijuana.pa.gov. The 21 qualifying conditions range from cancer to severe chronic pain to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Smith also said patients regularly ask about edibles — marijuana-infused food and drink products — but noted that adding those to the program would require action from Pennsylvania legislators.
Jeremy Haloskie became Cure’s first customer by driving two and a half hours from his home in the Poconos last year to get medical marijuana for his daughter, who has autism.
He said Friday that his daughter is now 6 and medical marijuana has helped her in many ways, with communication improving and meltdowns decreasing significantly in the weeks and months after he started putting the oil on her gums.
Haloskie said he has started using the oil on her twin brother, who also has autism, and now administers it them regularly each schoolday, with no negative side effects that he has seen.
The closest dispensary is now about an hour from his home, he said, and the product he buys now costs about $65 for a two-month supply, down from about $95 a year ago.
He has entered the children in an observational study on medical marijuana, he said, and although anecdotal reports were enough to convince him it was worth a try, he thinks the medical research aspect of Pennsylvania’s law that’s still gearing up is important.
He listed several components of marijuana — THC, terpenes and CBD – and said, “We need to know what’s really helping these kids.”