Nearly two years after it was legalized, the first sales of medical marijuana were rung up in Connecticut Monday, ending more than 80 years of a wide-ranging ban on the substance.
More than two dozen customers flocked to The Healing Corner in Bristol, one of the six licensed dispensaries in the state, beginning at noon to purchase medical marijuana. At 4 p.m., six customers were still queued up in the lobby, the dispensary’s owner said.
Sales also got underway at Arrow Alternative Care on Weston Street in Hartford Monday afternoon.
The first deliveries of medical marijuana Monday from Theraplant in Watertown meant the end of a long wait for patients like Daniel Gaita of Bethel, said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder following military duty in Somalia, Bosnia and Haiti in the 1990s, during one tour of duty.
“I don’t have to hide something that helps me,” Gaita, 41, said. “It will enable me to treat my symptoms without feeling like a criminal.”
The law legalizing medical marijuana gave patients registered with the state protection against prosecution for using marijuana, well before sales began Monday. But for Gaita and other patients, sales through dispensaries further lessens the stigma and opens up the option of buying marijuana consistent in strength and purity and subject to stringent testing under state regulations.
Theraplant, one of the four licensed manufacturers in Connecticut, told The Courant Friday that it expected to make the first round of deliveries to the dispensaries Monday. The deliveries included ground up raw flowers in 5-gram, 10-gram, 15-gram and 35-gram doses; pre-rolled cones or joints; and tabs that can broken apart and smoked or used in some vaporizers.
At The Healing Corner in Bristol, owner Geri Bradley said the dispensary was able to begin sales Monday — most dispensaries expected to begin sales later this week — because it had recorded its inventory Sunday based on a list supplied by Theraplant. Some adjustments were then made after the delivery arrived in the late morning, the first stop for Theraplant on its way to dispensaries throughout the state.
Bradley summed up the first sales this way: “We’re making history.”
Although the forms of medical marijuana are now limited, they will broaden into oils, tinctures, capsules and baked goods, such as brownies, bars and cookies, in coming months, manufacturers say. Marijuana-infused beverages and candies are not allowed.
“Smokables are going to be available first, but remember these smokables can also be vaporized,” said Angelo DeFazio, owner of the Hartford dispensary. “We believe in vaporization. It’s a better route of administration for the patient. It gets more of a dose to the patient quicker.”
So far, the state has registered 2,326 patients who are eligible to buy medical marijuana. Manufacturers and dispensaries are counting on growth in registered patients. One estimate places the potential customer base at 35,000 to 70,000, or 1 percent to 2 percent of the state’s population of 3.5 million.
Security is tight at the dispensaries, with approval from the state Department of Consumer Protection required for visitors.
In Hartford, Arrow Alternative Care has a security entrance, and a person behind an inch-thick window verifies a patient’s state registration. Once approved, a customer enters a locked waiting area with display cases that have glass pipes and other paraphernalia. Consultations and marijuana sales are performed in private rooms beyond the waiting area.
One customer at Arrow Alternative Monday, Neil Johnson, said he hoped the medical marijuana would relieve the pressure in his eyes caused by chronic glaucoma that has led to intense migraines. Johnson found that marijuana helped, but laser surgery and eye drops, including a steroid, did not.
“I follow the doctor’s orders,” said Johnson, 31, of Marlborough. . “I take my drops, but I don’t know what it is. My body seems to get immune to them, and my levels keep rising. The pressure keeps rising.”
Johnson, a chef at Cafe Colt in Hartford, bought 5 grams of medical marijuana Monday. He declined to disclose how much he paid.
Dispensaries expect prices initially to range from $16 to $20 a gram. But they say the price is likely to go down as the three other manufacturers — Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solutions in Portland, Curaleaf in Simsbury and Advanced Grow Labs in West Haven — start shipping. All three are expected to begin deliveries by the end of the year.
Theraplant is charging dispensaries $11 a gram for the medical marijuana, arguing that is a fair price given the state’s stringent regulations that add to manufacturing costs. Those regulations include testing every batch that is sold to dispensaries.
The website priceofweed.com, which compiles user-reported entries anonymously for marijuana bought on the street, on Monday gave the current average range of $271 to $341 an ounce in Connecticut, depending on quality. Based on 28 grams per ounce — medical marijuana will be sold by grams — the cost on the street ranges from $9.70 to $12 a gram.
But Theraplant said last week those prices lowball the actual cost, which is closer to $17 a gram on the street in Connecticut for higher-quality marijuana.
In addition to post-traumatic stress disorder and glaucoma, the 11 debilitating medical conditions for which medical marijuana can be used in Connecticut also include: cancer, HIV or AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue in the spinal cord or intractable spasticity, epilepsy, cachexia, wasting syndrome and Crohn’s disease.
Registered patients can be certified by their doctor to receive no more than 2.5 ounces a month, or 70 grams.
The other four dispensaries in the state are: Connecticut/D&B Wellness in Bethel, Prime Wellness of Connecticut in South Windsor, Bluepoint Wellness of Connecticut in Branford and Thames Valley Alternative Relief in Uncasville.
Gaita says medical marijuana will guarantee consistency in strength and purity, something that was never a given when marijuana was purchased through other channels.
Gaita also said marijuana has proven potent in treating what he described as hypervigilence, anxiety, low back and knee injuries, and chronic headaches sustained during his service. Gaita said that since using marijuana he has stopped taking certain medications and plans to ease off others.
“I can take medication that directly treats my symptoms without the side effects,” Gaita said.
An earlier version of this story was changed to amend passages describing Daniel Gaita’s service and medical condition.
Copyright © 2014, Hartford Courant
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.
Powered by WPeMatico