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First Medical Marijuana Dispensary In Pittsburgh Area Set To Open

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BUTLER, Pa. (KDKA) -- What you first notice when you walk into the CY+ Medical Marijuana Dispensary is what you don't see. The only pot there is in a few pictures on the walls.

"It defies all the traditional stereotypes associated with this industry," says Butler County Commissioner Kimberly Geyer.

Larry Clark is the Pennsylvania Deputy Director of Medical Marijuana.

"It's a medical experience," Clark said. "It's not a quote unquote head shop that everybody thinks."

CY+ is owned by Cresco Yeltrah out of Chicago, and co-founder Charlie Bachtell says there is good reason you don't see marijuana plants at the dispensary.

"In Pennsylvania, the flower and edibles are not part of the products that are available," he said.

The company just harvested its first crop of marijuana at its Brookville, Pa., plant and is processing it into the products they do sell.

"Pills, tinctures, topical lotions, and transdermal patches," says Bachtell. "It's very similar to traditional medicine and over-the-counter medicines."

medical marijuana dispensary 2
(Photo Credit: KDKA Photojournalist Dave Colabine)

Those products are useful for a wide range of ailments. Bachtell says they will have patients come for help with "cancer, ALS, epilepsy and things varying from neurological to that chronic pain scenario -- nausea included."

Diana Briggs says medical marijuana has made an incredible difference in the life of her 17-year-old son, Ryan, who suffers seizures from epilepsy.

"We have been able to change the quality of his life, my life, my husband's life, our two daughters' lives," says Briggs. "There's very little fear in our household anymore of those horrible seizures taking Ryan from us."

Diana proudly carries her Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Identification Card. Every patient wanting a marijuana-based remedy will have to go through the process of getting an ID before they can walk in the door of any dispensary in the state. Clark explains the patient must first go to one of the physicians who have registered with the state to be a medical marijuana prescriber.

The registered physicians can be found online by clicking here, then clicking on "physicians" to see the list and select a doctor.

Once you are with the doctor, a determination will be made if your ailment qualifies for the program under the state guidelines. Here are the conditions the state spells out as qualifying for the program.

The Act defines a "serious medical condition" as any one of the following:

• Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
• Autism
• Cancer
• Crohn's Disease
• Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
• Epilepsy
• Glaucoma
• HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) / AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
• Huntington's Disease
• Inflammatory Bowel Disease
• Intractable Seizures
• Multiple Sclerosis
• Neuropathies
• Parkinson's Disease
• Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
• Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or ineffective
• Sickle Cell Anemia

If your doctor recommends you for medical marijuana therapy, you must then apply to the state for your card which will cost $50 a year.

With a marijuana card, and your ID in hand, you'll enter the CY+ dispensary customer waiting room with tablets filled with information while patents wait. You'll then go into a consultation room to meet with the medical professionals on staff to choose the appropriate medication. Then across the room, you'll find the "pharmacy" where your order will be filled.

"We have products that will range from $5 up to $70," Bachtell said. "In other markets similar to Pennsylvania, the average patient will spend between $150 and $300 a month."

And no, it's not covered by insurance. At least not yet.

Butler Mayor Ben Smith is hoping the availability of medical marijuana will begin saving lives they are losing to opioids.

"I think that medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids is the future," he said.

While they cut the ribbon at CY+ in Butler Thursday - with the first patient sales expected Feb. 15 – more dispensaries will be coming online soon.

"We're bringing up several dispensaries every week across the state," Clark said.

Friday, Clark and company are expected to give approval to Solevo Wellness's first location on Forward Avenue in Squirrel Hill. CY+ expected to open its Allegheny County location on Penn Avenue in the Strip District by mid-April.

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