Greensburg medical marijuana dispensary set to open
Alexis Briggs hopes the opening of a Greensburg medical marijuana dispensary will make it easier for her to calm painful migraine headaches.
The Delmont resident travels to an Allegheny County marijuana dispensary to get the cannabis she needs — in liquid form.
“When I have used the medical cannabis, I have been able to prevent myself from having migraines … to go anywhere from 17 to 21 days with absolutely no migraine headaches, cluster headaches,” Briggs, 22, said during an open house Sunday for the new Solevo Wellness dispensary at 303 E. Pittsburgh St.
Solevo opens its Greensburg location Thursday.
The state-licensed dispensary, owned by Keystone Integrated Care of Pittsburgh and operated by Solevo Wellness, will make it more convenient for her get cannabis to prevent the migraines, Briggs said.
Solevo Wellness’ Greensburg dispensary will surely attract people like Briggs and other qualified Westmoreland County patients. Currently, about 1,000 county residents make the trek to the Squirrel Hill dispensary for medical marijuana, said Samuel Britz, chief operating officer for Solevo Wellness of Pittsburgh.
Westmoreland County Commissioner Ted Kopas and his wife, April, the county’s planning director, said the Greensburg site will make it easier for them to get medical marijuana for their son, Alex, who suffers from autism and high anxiety.
Ted Kopas said his son has used it for four months.
“It has made a noticeable difference in his health and behavior,” Ted Kopas said.
The state Health Department has issued 27 marijuana dispensary permits statewide and approved 42 locations to begin operations. The Greensburg site is the only one in the county.
About 64,000 Pennsylvania residents had been issued medical marijuana identification cards as of early December. The state Department of Health, however, does not have data on how many patients live in each county, spokeswoman April Hutcheson said.
Those seeking relief from medical marijuana have at least 115 participating physicians in Allegheny County from whom to get a recommendation for using the substance, but only 16 in Westmoreland County, based on the health department’s website. Hutcheson said that some participating physicians choose not to be listed on the website.
To be eligible for a medical marijuana card like Briggs and Kopas’ son, a patient must be diagnosed with one of 21 medical conditions. Cancer, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and seizure disorders, autism and post traumatic stress disorder are among the qualifying diagnoses.
Those using the medical marijuana must pay for the product with cash or a debit card, because the federal government has not legalized marijuana, said Dr. William Bookwalter, a neurosurgeon and one of a group of 24 investors in Keystone Integrated Care. The federal government still considers marijuana an illegal controlled substance.
“I’d rather pay for it out of pocket” than not get it, Briggs said, noting health care insurance does not cover the cost.
The average cost for the patient for a dose of the medical marijuana is $150, Bookwalter said.
The marijuana is distributed in the form of vapor, dry leaf, lotion, liquid tinctures and pills. Clients see a patient care consultant before using the cannabis.
“I’m surprised at how many of our patients have never had any exposure to marijuana in their life,” Britz said, noting the average age of their patients is 50.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.