Since opening up its doors about a year ago, Temescal Wellness, which provides medical cannabis for treatment, has seen an influx of patients.
The wellness center, which has growing operations in Manchester, now serves 450 patients at its two retail facilities in Dover and Lebanon, according to a 2016 Department of Health and Human Services report.
“The program is doing very well,” said Anthony Parrinello, the executive director of Temescal. “Patients are getting the relief they need solvent to their issues.”
But this initial growth is just the beginning for the four vertically integrated cultivation centers and dispensaries across New Hampshire that have opened since initial medical legalization in 2013, many of whom had to wait until 2016 to open their doors.
With the passage of House Bills 160 and 157, which add PTSD and chronic pain to the list of ailments that can be treated by medical marijuana, respectively, these facilities will need to prepare for a substantial increase in patients when the law goes into effect on Aug. 15 and Aug. 27.
Parrinello said Temescal Wellness has begun taking major steps to prepare for the increase in patients at its retail centers.
“We’ve begun the renovation process to expand our facility and to accommodate the growth,” he said. “No one knows the amount of additional patients but its going to be pretty substantive and we have to be ready to serve the patients.”
Brett Sicklick, the chief operating officer of Prime Alternative Treatment Center in Merrimack, one of the four distribution centers, said the center is preparing to increase education for all new incoming patients.
“This is new to a lot of people, whether they have experience with cannabis or not,” he said. “Everyone could use some form of education … by giving anyone 30 minutes to an hour, we find that patients are much more successful in finding what is comfortable for them.”
Both Parrinello and Sicklick said they will have to increase hiring due to the new law.
When hiring, Sicklick said he hopes to continue the practice of hiring patients who have an intimate knowledge of treatment options in addition to hiring staff with health care backgrounds.
“We have patients that suffer from a myriad of different conditions,” he said. “The more well versed we are on those different conditions and symptoms, the better we’ll be able to treat patients.”
Sicklick said he feels Prime Alternative Treatment Center is equipped to deal with new clients based on their one year of experience.
“I think we’ll be able to manage it pretty effectively,” he said. “A lot of patients, because of their treatment, they have anxiety or some form of PTSD because of a bad surgery or whatever experience they’ve had going through the more traditional system, so we’re treating for that now even though its’ not a a qualifying condition or symptom.”
With the increase in production and staff accompanying the passage of HB 160, companies like Temescal and Prime Alternative Treatment Center will expand their reach in the state, offering an alternative to traditional prescripton-based treatments.
Parrinello said this expansion of coverage will be beneficial to patients who are hoping to get off opioids.
“These folks are dealing with severe pain and are tired of going down the traditional rabbit hole,” he said. “It’s a downward spiral in many cases.”
This expansion of access to medical cannabis treatments, Parrinello said, will help to change the way people think about marijuana.
“It debunks stigmas,” he said. “It debunks the misinformation of the last several decades relating to marijuana … It’s not a gateway drug, it’s a step down drug.”
Parrinello said the expansion of what he believes to be a public service will go off without a hitch.
“There’s been no drama with the dispensaries, patients are very appreciative and respectful,” he said. “The program has been very, very helpful in dealing with the patients of New Hampshire and we’re honored to be a part of that. We look forward to meeting the continued needs of the patients, the caregivers and their families.”