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Prescott Marijuana Dispensary Strives To Eliminate Stigma, Add Legitimacy

The General

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Arizona - Public perception of the medical marijuana industry is rife with skepticism. And no one knows that better than Nicholas Vita, CEO of Columbia Care, which operates medical marijuana dispensaries around the country. Columbia Care is the parent company of Prescott's sole dispensary, 203 Organix. "We recognize that our business does still carry a stigma," Vita said, but he's determined to minimize that negative perception. Vita said he learned about medical marijuana when his mother, who had rheumatoid arthritis and could no longer hand-write letters to family because holding the pen hurt so badly, tried applying a marijuana-based ointment to her swollen knuckles and found that it relieved her pain.

"It usually takes a personal experience where someone has a member of their own family or a close friend who has a chronic condition where they suffered needlessly" for people to understand what medical marijuana is about, Vita said. He said his company battles "the fear that most people have that this is going to result in a huge influx of addiction or societal problems like (increased) crime." "We don't believe any of those things have happened," he added. In an effort to help contribute to the scientific knowledge base about medical marijuana, Columbia Care is working with the University of Connecticut to do studies on its effects, as well as with medical professionals at "one of the largest hospitals in the northeast," although he declined to name the hospital.

"The way we have approached it is to run research that can withstand peer review," Vita said, working "with very well-known hospitals, health organizations and healthcare providers." He said the company is reaching out to local hospitals and providers to let them know that Columbia Care "would like to be involved in their exploration of the product and sponsor some of the research." There are two studies upcoming in the next six months: One deals with cancer and wasting syndrome, the other with neuropathic pain suffered by HIV and AIDS patients.

Those studies will "prove - or disprove - whether (marijuana) works," Vita said. He wants to move "the dialogue from being one of opinion to one of fact." The research into the medicinal properties of marijuana has, of course, been ongoing. According to Dr. Elaine Burns, medical director at Southwest Medical Marijuana Evaluation Center, explains that the active ingredients in marijuana - THC - and CBD - already are recognized as having different medicinal properties. "We're not going to get strains that are specific to specific diseases," Burns said. "In most cases, you want to dial down the THC to minimize the psychoactive component, which some people see as a negative."

Using that theory, she added, has produced positive results. For example, marijuana containing high levels of CBD (cannibodial) and low levels of THC has been effective in reducing seizures while minimizing the drug's "high." This aspect of marijuana research is critical to decisions on how marijuana can aid in the treatment of a variety of ailments. A judge ruled on June 4 that Arizona must add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for a medical marijuana card. Dennis Kunian, vice-president of community relations for Columbia Care, said marijuana is far preferable to the standard prescriptions issued to fight PTSD stress.

"It treats anxiety in very much the same way that Valium, Klonopin, Xanax, Zoloft and the rest of them - all of which are addictive," he said. Kunian said doctors "give (antidepressants and pain medications) away like they're giving candy away," which leads patients to become addicted. "We are so regulated that we're not in that game," he said, noting restrictions of the amount of medical marijuana they can dispense. Vita said the composition of the product sold determines the psychoactive effect it has - in other words, getting high is not the point. "We have strains that have higher levels of certain chemical compositions that are designed for anti-inflammatory purposes," Vita said, as opposed to strains that are used primarily for anxiety relief, or relief from pain caused by chemotherapy. Vita and Kunian are making an effort to make 203 Organix a respected part of the community. Columbia Care is donating to various local charities and operates in a "transparent" relationship with law enforcement. "We have no interest in being associated with anything that operates outside the law," Vita said.


News Moderator - The General @ 420 MAGAZINE ®
Source: Dcourier.com
Author: Scott Orr
Contact: Questions? Comments? Use the links below to contact us. - The Prescott Daily Courier - Prescott, Arizona
Website: Prescott marijuana dispensary strives to eliminate stigma, add legitimacy - The Prescott Daily Courier - Prescott, Arizona
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