EDWARDSVILLE — State officials Wednesday gave approval to the first medical marijuana dispensary in Luzerne County.
Justice Grown Pennsylvania is the fifth dispensary statewide approved for operation by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said Abbe Kruger, chief executive officer of the company.
Medical marijuana won’t be available until mid-March, so until then Justice Grown will be holding weekly educational sessions at its dispensary at 7B Gateway Shopping Center in Edwardsville.
“Our main purpose now that we are approved is education and outreach,” Kruger said.
A ribbon cutting is planned for Feb. 16.
The approval further advanced the highly regulated and tightly controlled medical marijuana program signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in April 2016. In addition to the permitting and licensing of dispensaries and facilities to grow and process marijuana into pills, ointments, tinctures and other products, doctors are required to attend training to certify state residents as patients. Those patients are then eligible for state-issued identification cards to participate in the medical-pot program.
Two of the 27 licensed dispensaries and one of the 12 growing and processing facilities are located in the county. Columbia Care Pennsylvania LLC is awaiting approval to open the doors to its dispensary on Kidder Street in Wilkes-Barre. Standard Farms of White Haven, meanwhile, has been up and running to get ready to deliver processed marijuana to the dispensaries.
Of the more than 650 doctors approved to certify patients, 12 are in Luzerne County, according to the Department of Health. The state also has registered more than 14,000 patients. More than 2,300 of them have been certified as suffering from one of the 17 serious medical conditions — such as cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS and Parkinson’s Disease — that are eligible to be treated with medical marijuana.
Justice Grown has been receiving calls from patients inquiring about the dispensary. “We get maybe half a dozen calls a day,” said Kruger.
She and the others associated with Justice Grown who’ve worked hard to get to this point are “thrilled” with their progress and look forward to providing patients with relief through medical marijuana.
“That’s what we’re looking to do,” Kruger said.
And so is the Wolf administration, even in the face of possible federal enforcement of drug laws that could derail the state’s medical marijuana program. Prior to the program’s inception, the U.S. Department of Justice issued guidelines in 2013 that indicated federal authorities would not prosecute program participants even though marijuana is listed as a controlled substance.
Earlier this year, in reaction to a directive that rescinded those guidelines, Wolf said he would do everything in his power to protect patients from any federal overreach.
“Despite backwards moves by the Trump administration, I will continue to protect cancer patients, kids with epilepsy, veterans with (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and all Pennsylvanians seeking relief from legal medical marijuana. In Pennsylvania, we legalized medical marijuana in an overwhelming and bipartisan fashion, and we are months away from getting this medicine to patients that need it,” Wolf said.