Downtown dispensary brings medical marijuana to Boston

Printed from:

BOSTON — About two years ago, Father Joe Quinn became one of about 100 people in the world to be diagnosed with a rare incurable condition that he said left him with the possibility of “saying goodbye to life.”

Unable to take narcotics, the Franciscan friar was in “excruciating pain” until he found a medicine that he said helps him cope with the pain and lead a productive life in the face of his diagnosis.

On Wednesday, Quinn celebrated that he will now be able to get that medicine just two blocks from his church, Saint Anthony’s Shrine in the Downtown Crossing district.

“This is a blessing,” Quinn said as he joined company executives and patient advocates at the grand opening of the first medical marijuana dispensary in the city of Boston. “Medical marijuana has dramatically changed and helped my life and the quality of it.”

Run out of an old bank building by Patriot Care Corp., the dispensary will provide marijuana grown at a facility in Lowell to patients who hold medical marijuana cards. The dispensary is situated near the busy Washington Street corridor next to a Post Office and the Old South Meeting House, where colonial revolutionaries organized the Boston Tea Party.

“Our goal was to provide (patients) with a highly accessible location and all the T lines stop within a few blocks of here, a dozen bus lines stop nearby,” Patriot Care CEO Bob Mayerson said. “The location itself is meant to be very warm and comforting and inviting and we want patients to feel comfortable when they get here.”

From the street, the dispensary is unassuming. Once inside, patients will be greeted by a security guard who will check that they have an active medical marijuana patient card. The patient then must check in with a receptionist, who verifies that the patient has not already reached their maximum monthly allotment.

Once verified, the patient is let into a bright waiting room reminiscent of a clinic or medical office. From there, a salesperson escorts the patient into the dispensary, a large brightly-lit room with a point-of-sale counter and display cases. The salesperson conducts a consultation with the patient to determine which product would best suit their needs.

Mayerson said the dispensary will carry a rotating menu of 10 strains of marijuana flowers, edible products and some concentrates. The menu on the dispensary’s website contains eight strains of flowers — including Chocolope, Strawberry Amnesia and Sour Kush — as well as cookies and brownies ranging from 20 to 50 milligrams each.

While Patriot Care was celebrating its grand opening, city and state officials held a press conference at the State House to endorse the Yes on 4 Campaign, which supports the statewide ballot effort to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for general adult usage.

The medical marijuana field, which Massachusetts voters approved at the ballot in 2012, is far different, according to Nicholas Vita, CEO of Patriot Care parent company Columbia Care.

Vita said there is often an “intentional effort to obscure the distinction” between medical marijuana programs and the recreational marijuana industry, and asking a medical dispensary to discuss the recreational industry is “like asking a car company to comment on corn.”

“Our view is that the mission of the company … is to really learn and engage and provide service and professional interactions with patients. We are not a recreational company, we are not interested in participating in recreational markets,” he said. “For us, this is an amazing medical opportunity but we caution people and encourage them to reach out to us because understanding the difference between medical and recreational … it’s like night and day.”

The Milk Street facility will join existing dispensaries in Salem, Ayer, Brockton, Brookline, Northampton and Lowell. Patriot Care, which owns and operates the Lowell dispensary, plans to open a facility in Greenfield too. Massachusetts voters approved a medical marijuana law in 2012.

The dispensary is the first to open in Boston, where Mayor Martin Walsh is leading a campaign to defeat the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for adult use.

“I have always said that I will uphold the law that was passed by Massachusetts voters, and I am pleased that over the past few months, Patriot Care has worked closely with the Administration to address many of the neighborhood concerns,” Walsh said in a statement.

In June, 12,752 medical marijuana patients purchased a total of 12,835 ounces of marijuana, according to data from the Department of Public Health. Since the first dispensary began selling marijuana in June 2015, DPH reported, 21,544 patients have purchased 4,077.75 pounds of cannabis — roughly equal to the weight of a 2013 Ford Taurus.

— Written by Colin A. Young

Copyright State House News Service