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Medical Marijuana Dispensary Targets May Opening

By Vincent Corso
Centre County Gazette

Nature’s Medicine, Centre County’s first medical marijuana dispensary, is hoping to open in State College in May, as long as all the necessary permits are obtained for the business. In the same building, Hytek Medical will open an urgent care and marijuana certification center where patients can visit a doctor in order to get the approval needed for the medicine.

Crews have been working on the 2105 N. Atherton St. building, which was formerly El Jalisco’s, for months in order to get the facility up and running, but building permits took longer than expected to obtain, said company co-founder Mark Steinmetz.

The dispensary will take up about 60 percent of the usage of the building, with the certification center company taking up the other side. The two businesses are not under the same company umbrella.

Steinmetz has been in the medical marijuana business for five years, with locations in Arizona and Maryland, and he eventually plans to open two other dispensaries in Pennsylvania. The State College location is his first in the state, and he, along with fellow owners Tony DePaul and Austin Martin, of Philadelphia, see the business as a step in the right direction for the commonwealth.

“Medical marijuana is a as a safe choice that is finally available in Pennsylvania for people who are suffering,” said Steinmetz. “So often, people have been given prescription opioids to treat their pain. Prescription opioids are addictive drugs that mask the pain, and can cause problems for society. Medical marijuana is a much safer and healthier alternative.”

Patients looking to use medical marijuana have a few steps they need to take in order to get the drug from a dispensary.

First, a patient must create a profile on the state Department of Health’s patients and caregivers registry. Then, he or she must get certification from an approved physician saying the  patient suffers from one of 17 qualifying medical conditions. After that, the patient must return to the online registry and pay $50 to the health department for an ID card.

Currently, there are only four doctors in Centre County who are approved to give the certification for medical marijuana. This is where the marijuana certification centers come in. Christy Billet, of PA Safe Access, has been working to help patients get the resources they need as they navigate the medical marijuana process. She said it is common for companies such Hytek Medical and Compassionate Certification Center to open medical offices where doctors can get certificates to patients who need them.

“With only four approved doctors in State College, these certification centers will have doctors available to help patients get the medicine that they need,” said Billet. She added that many times a patient will come with a diagnosis from a doctor who isn’t approved to give the marijuana certificate, and a doctor at a certification center will provide the certificate. Steinmetz said having the certification center in the same building will be convenient for customers who are new to the process.

David Fish, of Hytek Medical, said the company plans to open the urgent care and certification center next door to the dispensary in three to four months, but will begin seeing patients in the area starting Friday, March 9. Fish said a doctor from other offices will be available until the facility is up and running. Patients can visit the Hytek website to set up an appointment.

The state Department of Health has determined that medical marijuana has been shown to elevate pain from certain medical conditions. Those suffering from cancer, glaucoma, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, Huntington’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions now have the option of medical marijuana to relieve their pain.

The dispensary will offer a variety of medical marijuana products, including oils, vape cartridges and pills. Steinmetz said he feels that vaping will be the preferred way for patients to use the medicine.

“It is easy to use, and people who are in pain will feel the affect within five to 10 minutes. It is much easier than rolling a marijuana cigarette and doesn’t have the same high potency smell of someone who is smoking cannabis,” said Steinmetz. He said ingesting the drug through pills offers long-term pain relief and is helpful to people suffering from Crohn’s disease or chronic pain.

The state does not allow the plant flower to be sold, which is the traditional way people think of marijuana use, but Steinmetz said he hopes that someday that will happen. He said his facility will offer a safe place for people to get a medicine they will use anyway.

“It is better if people can come to us, than look on the black market. We are safe and secure. We have will have cameras and a security location, so the local community can feel safe,” said Stienmetz. “We offer a boost the community.”

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