April 24, 2019
Herbology’s Town Hall in Morton, Pa
Mahja Sulmanjee, Jordan Brown, and Sarah Locklund hosting the Herbology Town Hall in Morton, PaSource: Herbology Town Hall at the Morton Borough Hall | Penelope Peru Photography P³
The medicinal marijuana dispensary Herbology held an event at the Morton Borough Hall to discuss the science behind medicinal cannabis and answer questions about their new location on the evening of Apr 23rd.
The event was hosted by Mahja Sulmanjee, the Director of Outreach and Education; Sarah Locklund, the Manager of Outreach and Education; and Jordan Brown, the Operations Manager.
A Bit of Context
Herbology is a medicinal marijuana dispensary with 14 locations throughout the United States. By the end of 2019, they plan on operating 40 different locations, according to Sulmanjee.
Currently, there are nine Herbology dispensaries in Pennsylvania, with new locations opening throughout the state.
The Herbology in Morton is expected to have their grand opening on May 6th with a ribbon cutting at 10:30 A.M. It is located at 409 Baltimore Pike, Morton, Pa, which happens to be right off of PA Route 420.
Sulmanjee explained Herbology decides to open new locations based on zoning throughout the state and where they receive approval to operate.
“So it’s just a coincidence that it’s located right off of 420,” joked a guest seated towards the front of the hall, to which giggles erupted from attendees as well as the hosts.
The hours for Herbology in Morton will be 11:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. Monday through Friday and 11:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. on Saturday through Sunday, said Brown.
There will be about 15 employees when the location opens, consisting of one full time pharmacist, two part time pharmacists, and about 12 herbologists, Brown added.
Herbology Town Hall
During the Q&A, many attendees voiced their concerns about the safety and security of the dispensary.
“Are there any security measures that have been put in place to prevent break-ins and theft?” asked Suzanne Hoffman, a candidate for the Commissioner of the Third Ward in Springfield.
Sulmanjee then explained the tight and comprehensive security measures Herbology has in place across all of their dispensaries.
“We have 365-degree cameras in and outside of the building that are all on generator systems,” Sulmanjee began. “We also have bullet proof walls and windows, in addition to our silent, trip security systems at every point of station.”
Herbology takes all of their product deliveries internally from unmarked cars, who notify the dispensary prior to arriving so the proper precautionary measures can be exercised, Sulmanjee added.
There are also security guards that check both patient and state IDs at the entrance, Brown added.
“It’s very similar to a jewelry store in nature,” Sulmanjee continued. “Everyday we make sure all of our inventory is accounted for before placing it back in the vault, so there really is no room for error, perjury, or missing products.”
Another attendee then asked about the vault in which the product is stored in.
“The vault is double-reinforced with concrete, steel, and it’s finger-print access only,” Sulmanjee answered. “In order to access any area of the dispensary, our employees must swipe their badge and enter a code.”
During the town hall, Locklund also touched upon the safety of cannabis use.
Attendees included residents of Delaware County and surrounding areas, as well as many local politicians. The guests promptly filled the hall at 6:30 P.M., collecting informational brochures and pamphlets before Locklund took to the podium.
Sarah Locklund, Manager of Outreach and Education, speaking at the Herbology Town Hall in Morton, PaSource: Herbology Town Hall at the Morton Borough Hall | Penelope Peru Photography P³
“I’m going to talk to you about some of the facts associated with cannabis,” Locklund said. “I’m going to briefly go over the science behind how it works in our bodies, the idea of using cannabis as medicine, the laws here in Pennsylvania and across the United States, as well as the process of becoming a medicinal patient to gain access to medical cannabis.”
Locklund then cited a quote from the Compassionate Use of Cannabis Act of Illinois about the modern research that has proven cannabis as an effective treatment option for pain, nausea, and other symptoms associated a variety of conditions.
“There are different varieties of cannabis with different effects,” Locklund said. “Sativa refers to a more uplifting effect, something that’s good for treating depression or giving you energy. Indica is going to be more relaxing, something that will provide relief from anxiety and help you sleep better.”
There are also varieties known as hybrids, which are a blend of the effects of both sativa and indica cannabis plants, Locklund said.
“The biggest difference between medical cannabis and the cannabis that is purchased on the street is you need a patient ID card to legally access a dispensary in that state,” Locklund explained. “The other big difference is that it is tested.”
The laboratory tests that medicinal cannabis undergo verify it’s potency and the compounds the product consists of, according to Locklund. These tests also look for potential contaminants, such as pesticides or the chemicals used during the extraction process to ensure the safety of the patients.
55-percent of cannabis concentrates tested in Oregon contained traces of pesticides, according to research published by the Cannabis Safety Institute (CSI) in 2015. This is a growing safety concern for medical marijuana patients, as these pesticides could be toxic and unfit for human consumption.
Each state has various guidelines growers must abide by which also regulate the use of pesticides, including Pennsylvania.
“Pesticides are not allowed to be used on cannabis here in Pennsylvania,” Locklund said.
Medicinal cannabis products are labeled with the cannabinoids and terpenes they consist of, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), limonene, and linalool, according to Locklund.
These labels help patients identify the compounds that help alleviate their symptoms so they can choose the strains that work best for them.
“The most common form of consuming cannabis is smoking,” Locklund said. “Here in Pennsylvania, smoking is not an improved method of consumption, so we don’t encourage this. However, there is a form inhalation known as vaporization.”
Unlike the traditional method of smoking cannabis, vaporization heats the cannabis flower with a battery-operated coil, Locklund explained. This cuts out the dangerous middleman of smoke, soot, and the other factors that have a negative impact on your lungs.
Medicinal cannabis is also available in the form of tinctures, oils, and ingestibles.
“Tinctures and sublinguals are great for people who don’t want to inhale anything,” Locklund began. “They are also very discrete.”
Inhaling cannabis is the fastest method of producing an effect. Oils, concentrates, waxes, and flower are instant, where as tinctures and sublinguals take about 15 to 20 minutes to kick in, according to Locklund.
“Edibles are also not an approved form of [cannabis] consumption in Pennsylvania,” Locklund said. “However, we do have ingestibles in the store, like capsules. They work the same way as an edible, so they will be absorbed by the digestive tract. That means it could take up to two hours before you feel their effect.”
With any new patient, it’s important to start with small dosages. Locklund said they should always give each dose enough time to be processed by the body before using any more cannabis.
Herbology will also carry topical and subdermal cannabis products, which don’t produce any psychoactive effects, Locklund informed. A patient can use a topical that contains THC and experience pain relief without any cognitive effects.
“We always tell our patients never to mix [cannabis] with alcohol, which is pretty typical with any medication,” Locklund said. “Cannabis doubles the effect of alcohol, so if you have one drink, it’ll turn into two, and two drinks would turn into four, and so on.”
“Even after taking two shots, the THC levels in participants blood plasma doubled.”Source: What Happens When You’re Drunk AND Stoned At The Same Time? | AsapSCIENCE
Patients may take cannabis with most other medications without worrying about drug interactions, Locklund explained. It is encouraged for patients to stay consistent with their cannabis use and keep a log of their doses, how they feel, and the types of cannabis they are using.
“Cannabis also enhances the effects of opioids, so you can take less opioids and still experience the same level of pain reduction,” Locklund said.
It is impossible to die of a cannabis overdose, Locklund explained. Unlike our opioid receptors, which our concentrated in our brain stem, our bodies don’t have any cannabis receptors in the brain stem. Thus, there is no risk of cannabis use suppressing a patient’s breathing neurologically.
The cannabinoids are processed by our endocannabinoid system, which is present throughout our bodies, according to Locklund. This system was discovered by a group of researchers in Israel during the late 80s and early 90s. It consists of various cannabinoid receptors, such as CB1 and CB2.
The endocannabinoid system plays a major role in physiologically regulating our bodies, such as our pain, pleasure, mood, memory, immune system, gastrointestinal system, and appetite.
Our body naturally produces cannabinoids, which are the same compounds found in cannabis plants. There are over 100 various cannabinoids that have been discovered in cannabis, Locklund added.
There are three distinct classifications of cannabinoids: endocannabinoids, phytocannabinoids, and synthetic cannabinoids.
“Endocannabinoids are produced by your brain,” Locklund explained. “Phytocannabinoids are plant derived from cannabis and other plants. Synthetic cannabinoids are produced in a lab.”
Medications such as Dronabinol and Sativex are 100-percent synthetic THC, which are prescribed to patients to reduce nausea, Locklund said.
CBD and THC are the most common cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, alongside the cannabinoids CBN, and CBG, among others.
These different compounds produce different effects, Locklund explained. For example, CBN is an effective sleep aid for treating conditions like insomnia.
Terpenes are another major compound that determine the effects, flavor, and smell of the cannabis, fruits, and other plants, Locklund said.
Locklund then went over the legality of cannabis use.
Additionally, some states have a CBD-only policy. This approves the use of hemp-derived CBD products, Locklund added.
“Hemp is the form of the plant that is more industrial,” Locklund explained. “Cannabis is more medicinal. Hemp also has a very, very low percentage of THC, to the point where it won’t have the euphoric effects associated with [THC] at all. The CBD you can purchase over the counter is also hemp-derived.”
Then, Locklund detailed the medical marijuana program in the state of Pennsylvania. It is regulated by the PA Department of Health (PA-DOH), which can be accessed online.
“All you need in order to register as a patient on the website is a state ID or driver’s license that is not going to expire within the next six months,” Locklund said.
To register, patients must enter the information on their ID and create a login, which takes about five minutes.
“The next step in the process is being certified [as a medical marijuana patient] by an approved physician,” Locklund said. “An approved physician is a doctor that has undergone a four-hour course [about the program].”
In Pennsylvania, a patient’s certification may last anywhere from three to 12 months, according to Locklund. Before the certification as expires, the patient will have to revisit an approved physician to have their medical marijuana card renewed.
A patient must also be diagnosed with one of the conditions that qualify for medicinal cannabis in Pennsylvania, which we outlined in our article How to Get Your Medical Marijuana Card in Pennsylvania earlier this month.
“Chronic pain is a huge qualifying condition because it opens up the opportunity for a lot of patients to qualify for medical marijuana,” Locklund said. “For example, arthritis isn’t one of the qualifying conditions, but patients with arthritis can qualify due to chronic pain.”
There is also a caregiver program for patients who are under the age of 18 or homebound.
A patient may have up to two caregivers, and a caregiver can oversee the treatment of up to five patients, as outlined on the PA-DOH website.
Herbology Town Hall Q&A
- Herbology will carry a wide variety of stock from various cultivators, including: flower, vape cartridges, tinctures, sublinguals, topicals, and Rick Simpson Oil (RSO).
- Cannabinoids and terpenes must work together in order to trigger different chemical reactions and produce effects. This is known as the entourage effect.
- Cannabis can help patients reduce or stop other medications, such as opioids.
- You can speak with your physician about having them become a certified doctor of medical cannabis.
- Cannabis will affect everyone differently, regardless of their size, due to the variances in the endocannabinoid system from person to person.
- At this time, Herbology only accepts payment in the form of cash.
- At this time, the guards at Herbology will not be armed.
- There is no limit to how much medicinal cannabis a patient can purchase or carry on their person.
- It is illegal to cross state lines with medicinal cannabis or share your prescription with anyone else.
At this point, Sulmanjee, Locklund, and Brown began fielding questions from the attendees.
“We are affiliated with Grassroots,” Sulmanjee said when asked about the brands that will be available at the new dispensary. “They are the wholesale side of our business, but we buy products from all cultivators that will provide to our location. This really increases the accessibility and this variety also helps knock down the price of our products.”
Then, a woman seated near the front of the hall asked if Herbology plans on lowering the price of their products.
“We try to bring the prices down on a daily basis on different types of products and we do have discounts for different types of people,” Locklund responded. “For example, we have a senior’s discount and a veteran’s discount. We also have a loyalty program. Every time you spend money at our location, you will be rewarded points with a monetary value towards your purchase.”
The prices of the medicinal marijuana products will also decrease overtime as the program matures in the state of Pennsylvania, Sulmanjee added.
Another attendee shared that she was a cancer survivor who had no success with traditional chemotherapy or the synthetic cannabinoid medication Marinol previous prescribed to her (fortunately, her oral chemotherapy capsule has been successful in treating her condition).
She then asked about the products that will be available and the efficiency of ingestible capsules, as she did not have success with prescription THC.
“We will have flower, capsules, tinctures, sublingual products, vaporizer cartridges, and RSO, which is often prescribed to patients with cancer,” Locklund said.
Sulmanjee then explained what is known as the “entourage effect” with medicinal cannabis.
“The ‘entourage effect’ typically means the cannabinoids need to work in conjunction with the terpenes,” Sulmanjee said. “When you take a full-plant extract, you get all of the terpenes and cannabinoids together. With medications such as Marinol or Dronabinol, you’re taking an isolate; you’re just utilizing one cannabinoids[THC] out of 100 cannabinoids that are available.”
The chemical compounds of medicinal marijuana produce a trigger effect, Sulmanjee continued. Without the other cannabinoids and terpenes, the isolate may not produce any effects.
Another attendee asked if medicinal cannabis could help reduce the usage of opioids and other pain medications.
“That is definitely something patients come to us for, to try to get off other medications,” Locklund said. “So many patients have success getting off their medications completely or reducing their prescription dosages [through the use of medicinal cannabis].”
Before making any changes to your medications, it’s important to speak with your physician, Sulmanjee added. Getting off of prescriptions such as opioids can be tricky and dangerous, if it’s not overseen by your doctor.
“That conversation with your physician can look like sometimes sounds like, ‘Doctor, I need your support in helping me to reduce my opioids because I have made the decision to use medicinal cannabis to help me, but I need the help from you to help wean me off of those medications,'” Sulmanjee explained.
The pharmacists at Herbology can also help oversee your treatment so you can give those results to your physician, Sulmanjee said.
“You can also speak with your physician about becoming a certified [medical marijuana] practitioner,” Sulmanjee said. “A lot of the time, physicians will say they don’t have the time to get involved with the program, and then they’ll have a patient they’ll want to test it with. They’ll have success testing it with a few patients, and they’ll start to see more patients [for medicinal marijuana].”
Another attendee asked how a physician becomes certified as a doctor of medical marijuana.
“All physicians and pharmacists must undergo a four-hour course,” Brown answered. “It goes over the qualifying conditions, as well as the methods of consumption that are approved by the state.”
Jordan Brown answering questions during the Q&A at the Morton Borough HallSource: Herbology Town Hall at the Morton Borough Hall | Penelope Peru Photography P³
The attendee then asked how often police are contacted about criminal activity at dispensaries in suburban locations and similar areas.
“In our past experience, this happens very seldom at our dispensaries,” Sulmanjee said. “We’ve been operational for three years in Illinois with five dispensaries, and we’ve had about four or five incidents in that frame of time. The incidents are really at the dispensary level. More or less, police will call us to verify whether someone who is carrying product is a patient.”
The same attendee also raised the concern of physicians issuing patient IDs to those who don’t necessarily qualify for the medical marijuana program.
“It seems like the state is doing a nice job of capturing that,” Sulmanjee answered. “There was recently an incident in Pennsylvania with a physician – who we won’t discuss – but there may have been some of that going on, so they had their license revoked.”
The last question this attendee had pertained to the privacy of receiving a medical marijuana consultation, particularly for patients who don’t want their conditions disclosed publicly.
“We do have private rooms for consultation,” Sulmanjee answered. “The typical new patient experience begins over the phone with someone like Sarah or a herbologist, where the patient asks a million questions. Then, they go to the dispensary and ask the same questions, and even more similar questions when they get to the point of service. It’s very repetitive until the patient becomes familiar with the products and compounds that work best for them.”
Then, Rose Fasciocco, another candidate who is running for the Commissioner of the Third Ward in Springfield, asked if Herbology intended to give back to the community they will soon be doing business in.
“It’s not lost on us that every community is unique,” Locklund added. “As a part of my job, I will identify what this specific community needs from us, and we will participate in that.”
As a national medicinal marijuana company, Herbology participates in a number of community events, assists support groups, foundations, and physicians.
Another guest asked how public officials, such as police officers or members of the PA-DOH, could access a dispensary, since Herbology only allows those with patient IDs to enter.
“Anyone that is considered an essential visitor would be able to access the facility,” Locklund said. “If someone from the Department of Health wants to check out our facility and they are not a patient, they would still have access.”
Later in the Q&A, a Morton police officer asked if law enforcement would be able to access the patient databases to verify whether someone they’ve pulled over was in the medical marijuana program.
“Yes,” Brown answered. “Once in the past, I’ve seen a situation where someone was pulled over carrying around someone else’s [medicinal marijuana] product. At that point, police can come to the facility and we can either confirm or deny whether the patient actually purchased that product from us.”
The guest who inquired about how public officials would access Herbology then asked about the taxation of medical marijuana.
“The taxes come from us as a business, because it is a medical program,” Sulmanjee answered. “Instead of patients paying a sales tax, the taxes come straight from Herbology at the end of the year.”
Another guest then asked about Herbology’s decision to open their location on Baltimore pike.
“Of all the areas in Delaware County, why Morton,” the attendee asked.
Sulmanjee assured this was not a marketing strategy on behalf of Herbology.
“Due to the harsh restraints and compliances we follow, we don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing a location,” Sulmanjee said. “We are given jurisdiction that we can fall within. Then, we have to get approval from the townsfolk and various others to open a retail space in that area. From that point, we’ll pick one or two locations we like, but one may be too close to a school or neighborhood, which ultimately determines where we can operate.”
Another attendee asked how medical marijuana is regulated, since it isn’t based on a prescription.
“When a patient comes into a dispensary, that’s when they’ll consult with a herbologist about what products would work for them how much they can start with,” Locklund said. “The fact that there is no legal dose really speaks for the safety of cannabis. A patient can figure out exactly what works for them without going to their doctor about increasing or decreasing their dosage. They can also decide what products to use.”
This is what is known as patient-directed medicine, Sulmanjee added.
“It won’t matter what size the person is, unlike alcohol, where a bigger person could drink a lot more than a little person could,” Sulmanjee explained. “It’s based on how many receptors each person has and how the receptors react.”
The attendee then asked about the payment methods accepted at Herbology.
“It is cash only and there will be an ATM on site,” Sulmanjee answered. “It is a nuisance, but we have to take cash because cannabis is still a federally illegal, Schedule I drug. Banking systems and credit cards have a lot of hesitation about working with cannabis companies. There’s no way an insurance company would actually approve of these cases.”
However, the federal government is working towards legislation to reschedule cannabis, which will allow more research and opportunities for financial institutions to become more open to medicinal marijuana, Sulmanjee assured.
Thomas App, the Mayor of Morton, asked whether the guards at Herbology will be armed or not.
“In the past, we’ve decided to take the position of not having firearms in our place of business as a company,” Sulmanjee answered. “That may change, if we felt we needed to [arm our guards].”
Another guest asked about the legality of transporting medicinal cannabis and what to do if you are pulled over.
“I would say keep it in your trunk, keep it in a locked, sealed package in the bag you got [from the dispensary],” Sulmanjee answered. “Keep your card on you at all times. As long as you keep [the medicinal cannabis] in the trunk, you should be fine.
Sulmanjee also recommends patients keep a copy of their patient ID in their glovebox.
There is also no limit to how much medical cannabis a patient may purchase or carry on their person, Locklund added.
“I’ve had my medical marijuana card since December and I’ve had to travel to about five or six different dispensaries because certain locations don’t carry that specific product,” a woman towards the back of the hall said. “Could I come to your dispensary in order to get a specific Cresco cartridge sent to your location?”
Locklund said that Brown is in charge of the products carried at this location, and that he will be listening to feedback from the patients to help determine what to stock.
As medicinal cannabis is plant-based, there may be situations in which a cultivator is unable to mass produce a certain strain, Sulmanjee added. In that case, a herbologist can work with you to find a product with similar compounds as an alternative.
Lastly, a man towards the back of the hall asked about the legality of traveling with medicinal cannabis outside of the state.
“Do not cross the state the lines with it,” Sulmanjee answered. “Each state has their own laws [about cannabis]. There are some states that offer reciprocity, like Nevada, but patients from other states can not purchase from our dispensaries [in Pennsylvania].”
After the Q&A, a few guests hung around to speak with one another and consult with the hosts.
“Thank you all for coming,” Sulmanjee said as the hosts wrapped up the town hall. “We’ll be open on May 6th, and we’re really looking forward to serving the community.”
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