DuBOIS — Medical marijuana was the topic of last week’s Greater DuBois Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development’s Business Over Breakfast meeting at the Best Western Conference Center in DuBois.

Guest presenter was Beth Bittner, director of communications for Cresco-Yeltrah, which is the first cultivator to have the state’s permission to begin growing and processing marijuana as part of the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana program.

Cresco-Yeltrah, which was one of the highest scoring contenders in the state’s rigorous application process, is constructing a state-of-the-art cultivation center and laboratory in Brookville and dispensaries in Butler, Pittsburgh (Strip District), and a third location that has not yet been selected.

“We passed our final inspection in the middle of October, before Oct. 20, so we started to grow immediately,” Bittner said. “We are roughly six to eight weeks ahead of anyone else that we know of. Time-wise, we still fully intend to have product on the shelf by the second week of February, which is wonderful because we still intend to be first on the market. That’s really not the issue with us. The issue is the sooner we get relief to people, the better.”

Bittner encouraged the public to get educated about Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program. Legislation which was signed into law on April 17, 2016, by Gov. Tom Wolf and aims to be the most medically focused cannabis program in the country.

The legislation passed with bipartisan support and will create an advisory board to make recommendations to the Department of Health as the program is implemented. The department will oversee a medically driven program through repeatable, controlled dosage, non-combustible products for patients.

Approved conditions include: ALS, autism, cancer, Chrohn’s Disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/Aids, Huntington’s Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, intractable seizures, intractable spasticity, multiple sclerosis, neuropathies, Parkinson’s Disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, severe chronic or intractable pain and terminal illness.

Approved forms of consumption include: Capsules, extracts, oils, medically appropriate forms of vaporization or nebulization, tinctures, liquids, topical, gels, creams, ointments and lotions.

In order to participate in the Medical Marijuana Program, patients must:

  • Register with the department which can be done online.
  • Obtain a physician’s certification that they suffer from one of the serious medical conditions, as defined in the Act.
  • Apply for a medical marijuana ID card and submit the application fee.
  • Obtain medical marijuana from an approved dispensary located in the commonwealth that has a valid permit issued by the department.

The process is still being developed by the department. The department will communicate with the public as the registration process becomes available.

Bittner said the Department of Health website is a phenomenal resource.

Medical marijuana is a medication that has helped a lot of people.

“It was parents whose kids could not talk, whose kids could not walk, whose children were having four or 500 seizures a day,” Bittner said. “It was people who have been on opioids for 25 years. I’ve talked to 85 year-old women who were just waiting to be able to get their card so they could maybe get off their opioids and maybe start to function better and actually maybe work and do productive things. The support group I sat in one time, these people had a 23-year-old girl next to an 85 year-old woman and every 15 minutes they had to get up and move because they had pain patches everywhere. And the pain, of just sitting still for 15 inutes was unbearable. So to go in and see that you may be able to give them some relief is amazing.”

The woman that Bittner remembers talking to the most was one who was “treating her child for a couple of years through the Safe Harbor, which means you can treat a child by going to another state and getting the product. With this letter, you’re protected. So she’s been treating her son who’s nonverbal autistic. And she told us that she got him on a 10:1 strain and he was doing better, and she got him down to a 4:1 strain and he spoke his first words to her. And I just cannot imagine that, if any of you are parents, that your child could never look at you and say, “I love you.” Or say “Yes, No, Mom, Dad.” And now she’s getting words out of her son.”

Bittner said she does not support drugs and does not personally believe this is a drug.

“This is a medication that can help a lot of people. I am leaning now towards the science and medical aspect of it,” Bittner said. “This is why I encourage people to really get educated about it. There are so many things with cannabis that I don’t think most people know. The United States actually has a patent on THC. If the United States didn’t think it was worth anything, why would they have a patent on it?”

She also encouraged people to have conversations with their employers.

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