Branford's Medical Marijuana Dispensary Ready For Opening Amid Tight Security

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Bluepoint Wellness of Connecticut's offices look pretty much like a doctor's office, except you have to be buzzed in twice. The New Haven area's only medical marijuana dispensary, one of six in the state, will hold its "soft opening" this week, so patients can make appointments and ask about how the new business will operate. It's a business that's new to Connecticut and, for patients, "it will be an awkward visit" at first, said manager Nick Tamborrino. That's one reason why the offices, tucked behind Planet Fitness at 369 E. Main St., are decorated in rough-hewn gray wood and bright clear panels encasing bear grass and seaweed, which Tamborrino made himself. The effect is welcoming, not as antiseptic as a medical office.

Tamborrino, 38, who has a doctorate in pharmacy, looks forward to the new venture. "What attracted me most was the opportunity to really learn" and to be in the "forefront of this and to be really involved in the research aspect of it," he said. Security will be tight. There's a camera at the doorbell so the office manager, Judy Stengel, can see who has arrived. Then, the patient will have to confirm his or her appointment – there are no walk-ins – to be let into the waiting room.

There, "we'll have a menu board available with the medications that we have in stock," Tamborrino said. All of the products will be kept in two safes. Tamborrino will be one of two pharmacists who will see patients, all of whom must be registered with the state. Patients must be Connecticut residents; have one of 11 diseases, including cancer, glaucoma, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis; be at least 18 years old and pay a $100 fee.

The pharmacists will help determine which type of cannabis will be best for each patient. "If you're on a chemotherapy regimen, you may have a difficult time eating," Tamborrino said. So a vaporizer may work best. On the other hand, some products will "increase your appetite to maintain the weight," which patients with Crohn's disease or wasting disease will respond to. Among the types of marijuana Bluepoint will offer are tinctures, tablets, patches and ground marijuana that can be smoked.

Edibles like cookies and brownies will be "determined on a patient-to-patient basis" and probably available only through special order, Tamborrino said. "You don't know, when the patient's going to go home, where they place these medications," he said. If there are children at home, brownies may not be a wise idea. The marijuana available from one of the state's four growing facilities, including West Haven and Portland, have different levels of the active chemicals THC and CBD. Also, "they actually test for any toxins before it reaches the patient," Tamborrino said. "It's a pretty purified extract of the plant the patients will be receiving."

Tamborrino can't name a date yet for actually dispensing medical cannabis. "Right now, we don't know when the product will be available," he said, though it should be sometime this month. In addition to dispensing marijuana, Tamborrino is doing research, one of the reasons he got into the business after working as a trainer for pharmacists in the Yale-New Haven Health System. He has also worked as a pharmacist at Bridgeport and St. Vincent's hospitals.

A Fairfield resident, Tamborrino said he chose Branford because of its proximity to Yale-New Haven Hospital and Connecticut Hospice, as well as the receptiveness of town boards. As part of his research, he'll be collecting data for the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids. "This is something new. I think we're going to learn a lot about this," he said.

"We also offer a service to physicians," he said. "A lot of doctors aren't registered yet. A lot of this is unknown; it's new territory." As of July, there were about 2,000 patients in Connecticut registered to have medical marijuana prescribed. More recent figures and the number of doctors registered were not available, according to the state Department of Consumer Protection.



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