2014-05-08 / Front Page

Marijuana dispensary thrives

By Ben Meiklejohn Staff Writer

This marijuana plant was grown and cultivated at an undisclosed location by employees of the Canuvo Medical Cannabis Dispensary, for use by medical marijuana patients. The dispensary is located at 6 Wellspring Road in Biddeford. (Courtesy photo) This marijuana plant was grown and cultivated at an undisclosed location by employees of the Canuvo Medical Cannabis Dispensary, for use by medical marijuana patients. The dispensary is located at 6 Wellspring Road in Biddeford. (Courtesy photo) BIDDEFORD – For three years, medical marijuana patients have been visiting Canuvo Medical Cannabis Dispensary at 6 Wellspring Road to access a variety of marijuana products. Open five days a week, the dispensary provides tinctures, edibles that are dosed to meet patients’ needs and 80 different strains of marijuana for smoking. The plant is considered illegal by the federal government, but has been legal under state law for medical purposes since 1999. The law was expanded in 2010 to allow up to eight dispensaries to be licensed; both measures were passed by statewide voter referenda.

Sage Peterson, director of patient care, founded the dispensary in 2010 with her husband, Glenn, and in 2011, doors were opened at the small medical complex located across Route 111 from Southern Maine Health Care. Each of the eight dispensaries in the state is aligned to serve the same eight health districts administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. Peterson said District 1 represents York County and is the only district mapped exactly to a county’s border.

Peterson said despite the political attention surrounding marijuana use, the only challenge to getting the not-for-profit in operation was finding a place to rent. Ultimately, the organization purchased a medical condominium at the Wellspring Road center. Peterson said she knows of another dispensary founder that talked to more than 200 landlords before finding a place to rent.

Serving approximately 1,200 patients, Peterson said safety and the needs of patients are the organization’s top priorities. Patients need a note from a doctor’s office to certify they suffer from a condition that allows them to use marijuana medicine. Individuals may obtain an identification card from the state, but are not required to.

“We offer medicine specific to each person’s needs,” Peterson said.

Giselle Goodman, a York County patient who is now an employed team member at Canuvo, said she used to buy her medicine from a designated caregiver, but the dispensary is a better fit to meet her needs because she can buy small amounts at a time and doesn’t have to coordinate around somebody else’s schedule. Under state law, a medical marijuana patient may either grow and cultivate their own plants, or designate another individual or dispensary to do it for them – as a caregiver.

“Look, we are dealing with marijuana,” Goodman said. “I wanted a safe place to go, where I could trust people and didn’t have to be afraid. Before, I was buying from a man and having to buy large amounts at a time.”

Peterson said the dispensary does have a relationship with designated caregivers and will refer patients to caregivers if the dispensary doesn’t meet their needs. The law was also changed in 2013 to allow for caregivers to sell up to two pounds per year of their excess marijuana to dispensaries.

The dispensary grows most of its plants at undisclosed locations in the city, Peterson said. Another dispensary, Maine Organic Therapy in Ellsworth, also cultivates its plants within city limits, she added. It takes about 10 to 12 weeks for a plant to mature from seed to flower, depending on the strain.

“Each dispensary is very different and has its own cultivation of it,” Peterson said.

Canuvo employs 12 people, all of whom are crosstrained to work in all aspects, including growing, making the edible products and customer service. Peterson said the team is “very health-conscious” and grows the plants to organic standards, although there is no process by which marijuana can be officially certified as organic.

Patients are encouraged to submit “Rate Your Strain” forms to help the team collect data on which strains achieve which effects, and that helps employees better understand which varieties of the plant are best for certain conditions.

“We have some doctors who recommend (marijuana) for patients who have built up to a limit (in) the toxicity of pills and can no longer take them,” Peterson said. “When people really start to figure stuff out, cannaboids are helping to block some of those messages (of pain). By people advocating for themselves, they’re making personal decisions.”

“We don’t have people say, ‘I have prescription for oxy and I just want some pot on the side.’”

Even though there has been a push for the legalization of recreational marijuana, Peterson said she doesn’t feel that it threatens the medical marijuana industry.

“Cannabis can be great, it has properties such as antiinfl ammatory, pain relief … but why be just for sick people? It seems unfair that two-thirds of the people are still breaking the law,” she said.

Regardless, Goodman said, “We grow just for medical, not recreational.”

Anyone who schedules an appointment, but does not have the proper certification for medical marijuana would not be served, Goodman said.

State law allows medical marijuana patients to buy up to 2.5 ounces every 15 days, but Peterson said the goal is to find the lowest possible amount, or dose, to achieve the desired effect.

“If we had someone buying that much, we’d have to ask ourselves some questions,” Peterson said. “If we felt someone was coming in here and diverting it (to other people), as business owners, we’d have to make a decision (to not sell to that person).”

Goodman said the organization does not accept walkins and clients need to fill out paperwork from the state designating the dispensary as their primary caregiver.

Paul Konopaski of Biddeford, a client of Canuvo, said, “This is a family-oriented place. It saved my life from the narcotic pills that I used to take. If you call Twin City Cab and ask them to take you to the happiest place in Biddeford, they’ll know exactly where you’re going.”

Konopaski and Goodman did not want to disclose personal health information about why they use marijuana. Some of the conditions that qualify individuals to be prescribed marijuana include cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, hepatitis C, Alzheimer’s disease, severe nausea, seizures and pain that has not responded to ordinary medical remedies for more than six months. Last year, the Legislature also added post-traumatic stress order as a qualifying condition.

Goodman said her goal as a team member of Canuvo is to educate people and help as many people as possible.

“Whatever we can do to help patrons succeed,” Goodman said. “We are just at the beginning of this – a seedling of where we want to go.”

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