The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection will announce three new locations for medical marijuana dispensaries in New Haven and Fairfield counties by early next year.
Six medical marijuana dispensaries have opened in Connecticut since the state approved the sale of marijuana for medical purposes in June 2012, but New Haven and Fairfield counties currently each only have one medical dispensary serving residents. The DCP is targeting these counties because the majority of patients seeking access to medical marijuana live in either Fairfield or New Haven County, Connecticut’s Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris said.
“We believe, based on demand and location of dispensaries on ground currently, those two counties would be best place to select applicants for new dispensaries,” Harris said.
The DCP announced in June of this year that it would allow three more dispensaries to open in order to meet expanding demand among qualifying patients. Harris said the number of patients who qualify for medical cards — which authorize patients to legally purchase medical marijuana — has grown from 1,683 to more than 6,000 since September of last year. The number of Connecticut doctors certified to evaluate patients and issue cards has grown to around 257, he added.
Since the announcement, 15 unique individuals or companies have filed 19 applications for dispensary licenses. Some applicants, including Organic Care, LLC, a medical marijuana dispensary based in Greenwich, have filed more than one application, indicating that they have proposed opening dispensaries at multiple locations.
Harris said the DCP has not finalized the dispensary locations, adding that he could not disclose details about the review process because doing so would violate the fairness and integrity of the application process.
Thomas Schultz ’72, the president of Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solutions, applied to open a dispensary in either New Haven or Milford in late September. His company is one of the state’s four licensed producers of medical marijuana. Schultz said he selected the two proposed locations based on his interest in opening a facility close to Yale, a location which would allow his company to carry out advanced research at the School of Medicine because researchers could observe the effects of medical marijuana on patients.
Schultz said he would like to open a dispensary so that researchers affiliated with his company — some of whom participated this September in the Cannabinoid Conference in Sestri Levante, Italy, which hosted scientists who presented research on medical marijuana — would have the chance to observe patients on a regular basis and study which of the various forms of medical marijuana are most beneficial in treating specific diseases.
“From my point of view, having a dispensary would allow us to have direct interaction with the patients and further the research in a way that is absolutely critical,” said Schultz.
New Haven residents said they would welcome a medical marijuana dispensary in the Elm City. New Haven resident Russell LoPinto said that he would support the opening of a dispensary.
Schultz said he believes scientists have identified a great deal of potential for cannabinoid-based medications, but the political climate has prevented the development of some products that could benefit patients. He noted that cannabis-based medications are effective in alleviating pain and potentially curing illnesses because the endocannabinoid system in humans — a part of the nervous system that mediates the psychoactive effects of cannabis — interacts with every cell in the body.
Patients must have one of 11 state-approved conditions — including cancer, glaucoma and Parkinson’s disease — to qualify for medical cards. But seven additional conditions, including severe psoriasis and Lou Gehrig’s disease, are likely to be added to the list in the coming months, Schultz noted.
Harris said medical marijuana is not like other drugs because it consists of a “stew” of different chemicals. As a result, scientists can alter chemical levels to produce medical marijuana strains that are more effective in treating specific symptoms and conditions, he said.
Harris added that some dispensaries also offer yoga, massage therapy and reiki — a healing technique based on the principle that a therapist can channel energy into the patient through touch — to treat patients.
“It’s not just about ingesting a drug, it’s about health care in a holistic way,” Harris said.
Connecticut decriminalized the possession of less than 0.5 ounces of marijuana in 2011.