An addiction treatment center in Monroeville recently started certifying people to use medical marijuana.
“This is wonderful,” said Suzanne Winn shortly after being certified at the Rio Health Clinic in Monroeville. “It really does have medicinal properties that can help people.”
Winn, 52, of Latrobe, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain that until six months ago she treated with prescription opioids. She was one of 17 lined up Thursday at the clinic’s Cannabis Care Certification Center — a business within the treatment facility. Three doctors — Sheng C. Shaw, Krishna Jetti and Arthur Santos — were recently hired by the clinic to certify patients during a 4-hour block once a week.
Rio administrator Dr. Roxanne Rick opened the center in February and hopes to have two others running by April. The goal of the business is to help people get an alternative to opioids for treatment of pain and addiction.
The process to get certified costs about $400 at Cannibis Care: $160 for the first consultation and $45 for four required follow-up visits, which includes urine testing.
“We want to see if it’s working. We don’t want people to abuse the drug,” Rick said.
Once certified, a patient needs to buy a $50 state identification card to be allowed to buy medical marijuana. Two marijuana dispensaries opened this year in the Pittsburgh region and prices for the drug ranges from $40 to $70 . The Health Center dispensary in Monroeville is scheduled to open in April .
Dispensaries sell the drug in pills, oils, tinctures and ointments. They are permitted to sell equipment such as vaping devices to administer medical marijuana. Sale of marijuana in its dry leaf form is not allowed in Pennsylvania.
Shaw, 70, retired five years ago from a hospital in Wexford and started working part-time at an addiction recovery clinic in Washington. When he heard about the clinic opening in Monroeville, he agreed to join the team.
“Marijuana is a viable, proven medicine. It’s been used medicinally for more than 5,000 years,” Shaw said. “Under the supervision of an M.D., it’s safe.”
A patient must be suffering from one of these medical conditions outlined by the state to be eligible for a medical marijuana card: Lou Gehrig’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease, autism, cancer, Crohn’s and related bowel disease, spinal cord damage, glaucoma, HIV and AIDS, multiple sclerosis, seizures, chronic pain treated by opioids, PTSD and sickle cell anemia.
Shaw said the process for becoming certified to use medical marijuana has to be strict and involved.
“We can’t just certify anyone from the street,” he said.