Photo via Keystone Canna Remedies
Pennsylvania medical cannabis patients are so close to legal weed that they can smell it — almost. With approved cannabis products not available until next month, Pennsylvania’s first approved dispensary welcomed registered patients and the members of the general public for an official grand opening, offering tours the state’s first legal weed facility, consultations with cannabis pharmacists, and educational workshops.
According to Philadelphia’s NBC10 affiliate, Keystone Canna Remedies, a nondescript beige building in suburban Bethlehem, PA, opened their doors for the first time Wednesday morning, cutting the ceremonial ribbon on the Keystone State’s long anticipated medical cannabis program, even before licensed growers and producers are ready to put product on store shelves.
“Welcome to the 21st century,” Tony Iannelli, president of the Bethlehem’s local Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, told the waiting crowd at Wednesday’s opening.
Nearly two years since Governor Tom Wolf signed medical marijuana legislation into law, Pennsylvania’s legal cannabis industry is finally rolling, with more than 100 doctors already certifying patients and businesses like Keystone Canna Remedies ready to welcome them.
“Pennsylvania and the Department of Health has been doing it right,” Victor Guadagnino Jr., founder of Keystone Canna Remedies told NBC10. “The state is setting the standard for how other states should implement medical marijuana programs.”
A middle ground between the West Coast’s more progressive medical programs and a number of restrictive, CBD-only initiatives, Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program will be open to residents suffering from 17 medical conditions, including cancer, epilepsy and PTSD. While traditional cannabis flowers and edibles will be banned, a number of in-state producers will supply both THC and CBD-rich vaporizers, tinctures, oils, and topicals.
With full-strength extracts like Rick Simpson Oil and THC capsules, Pennsylvania’s impending program aims to strike a balance between the wide-spectrum relief offered by cannabis’ psychoactive properties while limiting total quantities to avoid adverse side-effects and highlight the plant’s medicinal benefits.
Joining in Wednesday’s celebration was former NHL enforcer and Philadelphia Flyer Riley Cote, a cannabis advocate who switched from pharmaceutical painkillers to medical cannabis after years of professional hockey’s nightly hits and lasting scars. A Canadian native, Cote was ecstatic to see his adopted home state embrace the plant that changed his life.
“I’ve seen the dark side of opioids — what they do to the spirit and the mind for athletes and all people, I don’t want to go down that path,” Cote told NBC10. “It’s a very positive plant. We have to bring it out of the darkness and into the light. We just have to get over ourselves and our belief systems and change the way we think.”
As for the bigger picture and Pennsylvania’s place in the federal government’s most recent threats against the cannabis industry, Guadagnino Jr. is confident that his family business will get off the ground without a hitch thanks to support from Keystone State legislators and district attorneys, predicting quick changes to follow quickly behind Pennsylvania’s latest leap.
“We believe that the state will protect us,” said Victor Guadagnino Jr. “I’m not worried because we’re focused on getting the patients access. When people can see the benefits cannabis can have, I think there is going to be a lot of change at the national level.”
It’s not exactly clear when cannabis products will finally make their way to dispensary shelves other than the vague “mid-February” announcement, but in the meantime, Keystone Canna Remedies will continue to open their doors to curious Pennsylvanians. The shop will offer their first cannabis workshop, “Vaporizing 101,” on January 26th.