PA: Bristol Township Marijuana Dispensary Hosts Educational Symposium

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Photo Credit: Chris Ullery

Patient’s rights, registration and even gun ownership were some of the many topics discussed Saturday at an educational event hosted by Beyond/Hello, a medical marijuana dispensary that opened Friday.

It’s been two years since the state legalized medical marijuana, but questions about registration, interstate laws and even gun control still are relative unknowns to many.

Myra Zerr, head of practitioner outreach for the medical marijuana dispensary company Beyond/Hello, fielded questions on these and other issues during a patient educational event in Bristol Township on Saturday morning.

“I’ve met several people already who don’t even know this is a program,” Zerr said after answering questions from the audience of about 20 people.

Helping people navigate the medical issues — and some legal concerns — is one of the main reasons Zerr, a neurologist, does outreach programs for Beyond/Hello.

The company opened its doors, at 2412 Durham Road, to patients registered through the state Department of Health’s marijuana program on Friday.

Medical marijuana dispensaries across the state only began selling the drug this February, and more than 10,000 patients have purchased their medicine as of early April.

About 20 people — including some prospective and current patients — attended Saturday’s educational presentation at the Bucks County Community College’s Gene and Marlene Epstein Campus on Veterans Highway.

Jackie Kosiba, 30, of Bristol Township, said she came Saturday because she’s considering using marijuana to offset chronic pain from endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a medical disorder resulting in tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus growing on the outside, according to information on the Mayo Clinic’s website.

Kosiba said her condition is “very painful” and her only options are either a hysterectomy or “pain medicine [opioids] for the rest of your life.”

“I’m not about that; I’m not trying to be on opioids at all,” Kosiba added.

As the opioid epidemic claims thousands of lives to overdose in Pennsylvania and nationally, Zerr said it’s not uncommon for people to seek marijuana to treat pain, rather than opioids.

“I remember speaking to patients who would ask our physicians, ’Can you get me marijuana?” Zerr said, recounting her past medical field experience.

“They’re at the end of their tether and too many people feel like they are resigned to a death sentence with opioids,” she added.

State law allows the use of medical marijuana in multiple forms, excluding an edible form like a pot brownie or smoking it.

Although patients could use medical marijuana with a vaporizer similar to an electronic cigarette, the health department recently announced allowing the drug in plant form for vaporizers as well.

While cannabis prices vary by retail dispensary, Zerr said the plant form would likely cost significantly less once available this summer.

Although Zerr’s presentation focused on registering for medical marijuana — which starts by registering at www.medicalmarijuana.pa.gov – she also was able to address a legal topic that often goes underreported: the Second Amendment.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has prohibited anyone who uses medical marijuana from owning a firearm since September 2011.

“Marijuana is listed in the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I controlled substance, and there are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana purportedly use for medicinal purposes…” an open letter from the bureau states.

It’s a combination of controversial issues — federal drug laws and the gun control debate — that Zerr said can have a person opting out of marijuana treatment rather than being denied a federally protected constitutional right.

One 69-year-old man, who did not want to be named, said his wife bought her first supply of marijuana from Beyond/Hello on Friday, but said he was shocked he did not know about the firearm prohibition sooner.

The man did not seem to be reconsidering his wife’s medication choice over the gun prohibition, but Zerr said she knew of at least one potential patient who has refused medical marijuana due to the federal bureau’s policy.

Beyond/Hello will hold a similar symposium for medical practitioners next Saturday at the college from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Zerr said that event is also open to the public, but the discussion will be geared toward medical professionals.

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