Cultivate Holdings in Leicester looks like it could be a hip new coffee shop, with its wood details and open-concept, airy layout.

But Cultivate isn't a café, even though its staff says their product is "farm to table."

Cultivate is Worcester County's first medical marijuana dispensary.

Inside this tightly-secured Main Street facility, a friendly staff -- many of whom are medical patients themselves -- wait to greet patients and help them find out exactly which strain will help them treat their ailment.

Behind a wall, dozens of marijuana plants are in the process of growing.

Cultivate has nine strains of marijuana available now and will have around 30 in the next two months, Cultivate President Sam Barber said.

Some of the classics they have at the counter include OG Kush and Tangerine Dream. Soon, Cultivate will have more rare strains, like Power Africa and Golden Tiger.

Infused products like beverages, edibles, lotions, pills and patches will be available in the coming weeks.

Prices for the marijuana range from $15 to $350 depending on the strain and the amount purchased.

Barber, 24, started the rigorous application process when he was a junior at Babson College.

"The big thing for me, which I think is starting to happen for a lot of other people, is being able to hear people's stories, where this is actually helping them," he said. "When you hear that side of it, you completely change your mindset toward it."

Cultivate has multiple security measures in place before anyone can enter the dispensary. Patients need to show their ID and medical marijuana card before they can even get into the facility.

"There's definitely people, like anywhere, that are going to be against it," Barber said. "Overall, the way we built this facility, the people we hired, was to create some of the highest-quality product out there and do it in a way that's inviting for people. Get rid of some of the stigma that everyone assumes is here."

Barber said he will wait and see what the regulations for selling medical marijuana are before he makes any decisions about selling the product to more than just a medical market.

Patients were able to pre-register ahead of Cultivate's Dec. 1 opening. As of Wednesday, Cultivate had 420 pre-registered patients.

"People have been really excited we're here. Most of them have been driving an hour, waiting in line for an hour," Barber said.

About 25 percent of customers Cultivate sees are new to marijuana, estimated Suzanne Melanson, the dispensary manager. The average patient is in his or her mid-40s.

Melanson said she finally feels validated through this work, being able to help people find the right medication for their body and their ailment.

"It's hard to deny the benefits day in and day out," she said.

Many patients suffer from cancer, Multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease and Parkinson's disease.

One goal of the facility is to "Cultivate compassion," through monthly community outreach. The team has already had an event at the senior center.

There is also a 20 percent discount for veterans, a 10 percent discount for senior citizens Monday through Wednesday, a 10 percent discount for those with financial hardship and discounts for new patients.



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