KINGSTON — Mark McNeely had been taking prescription medication for pain without much success when a doctor suggested a different option.
“I’ve been trying to deal with my pain from doctor prescribed medications,” said McNeely, 51, of Wyoming. “I’ve been paying out of pocket for drugs that aren’t helping me. I went to a clinic and the doctor asked me if I ever considered medical marijuana.
“The problem is the doctor couldn’t tell me how I can get medical marijuana.”
McNeely was one of 20 people who turned out Monday night at Canteen Park to learn about Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program from Abbe Kruger, CEO of Justice Grown PA.
Kruger is hosting informational sessions every Monday night in July at the restaurant. The sessions begin at 6:30.
“Abbe provided me with an affiliated doctor in Wyoming who can help me out,” McNeely said. “I’m applying for my medical marijuana card because of the information I got today.”
Justice Grown is one of 27 medical marijuana dispensaries in Pennsylvania. Four of them are located in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but Justice Grown is the only one in Luzerne County.
“We consider access to cannabis to be a social justice issue,” Kruger said. “We don’t discriminate. Everyone who needs medical marijuana to help them should be able to access it.”
During Monday’s session, residents from Luzerne County were provided with a brochure detailing information about the business’s mission statement and a general run-down of how the medical marijuana industry in Pennsylvania works.
Justice Grown has a list of doctors who can certify a patient for a medical marijuana card. Doctors who are not a part of the program have to complete a four-hour course to become certified.
Applying for a medical marijuana card, which will be valid for a year, is a three-step process by Kruger.
“First you have to go to the Department of Health’s website and sign up with your Pennsylvania driver’s license. Then you must get a certification from a registered physician,” Kruger said. “Lastly, once you get your card you can use it a week after you get it.”
However, getting a card doesn’t mean you can start smoking marijuana.
Under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act, marijuana can only be consumed in pill form or as an oil, used as topical cream, be vaporized or taken as a tincture or liquid. Also a patient can’t have more than a 30-day supply.
Kruger stressed that just because you have a medical marijuana card doesn’t mean that you can’t get arrested.
“Marijuana has not been decriminalized in the state of Pennsylvania,” Kruger said. “If you do happen to get pulled over, aside from showing your medical marijuana card you should be able to provide the officer with a receipt of your purchase.
“Also just because you have a prescription, you still can’t drive a vehicle because you would be driving under the influence.”
Located in Central Pennsylvania, Terrapin Care Station is a licensed distributor of medical marijuana-based products. They are also the distributor for the Justice Grown dispensary, which is located at the 7B Gateway Shopping Center in Edwardsville.
“With the demand increasingly high for product lines that treat various conditions, the supply is finally starting to catch up,” said Clay Hawkins, director of Terrapin. “However with the possibility of marijuana being legalized, that could soon change.
“With the legalization of marijuana in California, Colorado and Washington, recreational users helped drive down the cost for medical marijuana users.”
Last March, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said he favored the legalization of recreational marijuana because he believes it could generate $200 million dollars in annual revenue.
“I think once the government realizes that they can make some money on marijuana, it will finally be legalized,” said Amy Bezek, 43, of Kingston. “But they have done the right thing, finally opening up medical marijuana dispensaries.”
Since February, Justice Grown has seen an increase in business.
“You see on Facebook, Justice Grown will post that they are all out of a product,” Bezek said. “I think that shows the high demand and the difference medical marijuana is making.”
Bezek said she is well aware of the difference the drug can make.
“I had five herniated discs in my back, I was told I was going to be disabled,” Bezek said. “I turned to medical marijuana, and it helped me, and I can walk I didn’t have to rely on a pill.
“The negative stigma will go away when people like myself turn away from the pills and decide to go with medical marijuana. That’s when the pharmaceutical companies will listen.”
Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes