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Med marijuana gets more security than prescription drugs in Pa., Leach says

| Thursday, July 13, 2017, 6:03 p.m.

Robert Capretto, an investor in a medical marijuana facility in Squirrel Hill, said he used to oppose the use of marijuana.

The orthodontist and cousin of Dr. Neil Capretto, medical director at Gateway Rehabilitation Center, said he changed his mind after being approached by former Allegheny County Executive Jim Roddey to invest in the dispensary. Roddey also is an investor.

“I was against it for so long I never bothered to follow the research,” Capretto said. “I started to read about it. I made calls. I studied it more, and I finally came to the conclusion that there are benefits.”

Capretto was among a group of experts, including state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, one of the architects of Pennsylvania's medical marijuana law, briefing Pittsburgh City Council members Thursday on how the nascent industry will operate in the state.

Councilman Corey O'Connor, D-Swisshelm Park, said he called for the televised meeting because the Squirrel Hill dispensary will be in his council district.

“Obviously these facilities are going to be opening in the Pittsburgh area,” O'Connor said. “When something new is coming to the city we want to have not only the council members know about it, but also for the general public to take away some of their concerns.”

Leach, who supports both medical and recreational use of the drug, predicted that legislators would decriminalize marijuana within the next couple of years.

“I think recreational is going to be inevitable,” he said. “I think prohibition is a cruel, heartless, unsustainable policy, which costs us so much in human suffering and money that we have to spend on this insane protocol, but it's good that the medical side of it is moving quickly forward.”

Pittsburgh is in line for three dispensaries. Others are expected to open in Oakland and Lawrenceville.

Speakers described heavy security measures, even stricter than those required for prescription opioids.

Dr. Bryan Doner, CEO and medical director of Compassionate Certification Centers, a Delaware-based medical marijuana organization, said there has never been a documented case of an overdose or fatality from marijuana consumption.

Gabe Perlow, CEO of PurePenn LLC., which is licensed to open a growing facility in McKeesport, said medical marijuana can be tracked from “seed to sale” through a software program. Penn Pure will produce marijuana products for distribution in capsules, resin and vapor.

“From us planting a seed to a patient getting their medication we'll know exactly every step it took along the way,” he said. “We'll be able to tell you what plant it came from, what seed it came from. All the way to making the oil that goes into the capsule, we know the entire batch.”

Marijuana products will be loaded and unloaded behind closed doors in secure loading docks at both growing and dispensary facilities. Perlow said trucks would first have to pass through a secure gated area at PurePenn even before pulling into a loading dock.

An inventory must accompany the drug when it is transported.

Capretto noted that delivery drivers are permitted to park outside a pharmacy and carry boxes of addictive prescription drugs in through the front doors.

“In terms of security, the requirements for marijuana are far more stringent than, for example, for opioids,” Leach said. “We treat this like Fort Knox, and we treat much more dangerous drugs in a much more loosey-goosey manner.”

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