Lancaster County’s only medical marijuana dispensary is open for business, and expecting a lot of it.
Cure Dispensary director of operations Ryan Smith said Wednesday that more than 60 people had made appointments, including some from as far away as Philadelphia, and he anticipates having several hundred customers in the next week.
Just a handful of dispensaries have opened in Pennsylvania so far, and because only one producer has medical marijuana ready for market right now, some of the dispensaries have had to temporarily close their doors just weeks after opening until more is available.
“Based on the demand in the market right now, all of the dispensaries could be charging a lot more than they are,” Smith said, noting he expects prices to decline over the next year or so as supply increases and demand evens out.
State law allows only certain forms of medical marijuana, which must be purchased from a licensed dispensary like Cure and is not covered by insurance. Only patients who have one or more of 17 serious medical conditions covered under the law and are certified by a participating doctor are allowed to use medical marijuana.
Here are some key things to know about the dispensary and the fledgling industry.
Cure Dispensary is in the corner of the former Kmart plaza along Fruitville Pike in Manheim Township and will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cure began offering appointments Wednesday. Starting today, appointments are not required, but they are recommended to reduce wait time, Smith said.
The doors will be kept locked, with staff admitting only people who have valid ID and a Pennsylvania medical marijuana card with a current effective date. Dispensing will be done in an interior room.
Cure is a cash-only business, and has an ATM available inside for customers.
Smith said Cure exceeds the state’s stringent requirements on safety measures.
Doctors can recommend specific forms and doses of medical marijuana, but do not have to. Smith said the industry is encouraging them to leave that to the dispensaries, which know the products and can help patients decide what to try.
Cure’s consultations are free and take about 15 minutes.
Smith said the products generally contain THC and CBD in varying ratios. THC is what produces standard marijuana’s psychoactive effect, while CBD does not make people high.
As is recommended with many prescription medications, Smith said, patients should start “slow and low,” testing medical marijuana in a safe environment.
“This product might impair the ability to drive or operate heavy machinery,” the packaging says.
Finding a doctor
To date, 12 doctors in Lancaster County have been authorized to recommend medical marijuana.
Smith said some of them are serving only existing patients, but that Cure can refer people to some doctors who are taking new medical marijuana patients.
A key question for the medical marijuana program has been whether enough doctors will participate.
The big hospitals and health systems that employ most of Pennsylvania’s doctors have previously said little on the subject, but the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this week that UPMC — the biggest health system in Pennsylvania — has created guidelines for its doctors who want to participate.
“Pittsburgh attorney Patrick Nightingale, executive director of the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society, said UPMC’s decision to implement medical marijuana guidelines is a monumental development,” the paper said, quoting him as saying he’s heartened that UPMC “is permitting its physicians to register.”
UPMC Pinnacle is a Harrisburg-based organization that includes Lancaster County hospitals UPMC Pinnacle Lancaster and Lititz. Spokeswoman Kelly McCall said in an email Thursday that it is reviewing the overall UPMC guidelines " and will determine the best approach for our community and providers in central Pennsylvania."
Currently, she said, two independent pain management physicians on the medical staffs of the Lancaster and Lititz facilities are participating in the medical marijuana program.
Comment was not immediately available from Lancaster County’s other health systems.