HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut’s medical marijuana system is finally up and running. The first state-licensed grower sent its first shipment to dispensaries this week. That means qualified patients are getting their first ever legal pot.
All six of the state’s dispensaries should open this week with the first product now available. Those dispensaries, in Bethel, Branford, Bristol, Hartford, South Windsor, and Uncasville, are already very busy because patients with certain diseases have waited a long time for this.
Michael Petruzzelli of Hamden has used marijuana for years. “I’m getting help with Spina Bifida and post traumatic stress disorder,” Petruzzelli said on his way in to Hartford’s Arrow Alternative Care, a state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary that opened this week.
Now that he has a state medical marijuana card, Petruzzelli says, using the drug is both legal and safe. “It’s a great, great thing, not having to worry about what you’re getting and not getting burned, money-wise.”
State-licensed dispensaries just got their first shipments this week. Arrow owner Angelo DeFazio says it is already changing lives. “Yesterday we saw a dozen people in wheelchairs come into our facility,” DeFazio said. “Two of them when the were wheeled in started crying because they couldn’t wait for this day to appear.”
The reason it took so long for dispensaries to open is the system the state of Connecticut set up only allows marijuana grown in Connecticut to be sold in Connecticut dispensaries. Also under that system, only people with a marijuana card can even go inside the dispensaries. In order to get a card, you first must be diagnosed by a doctor with at least one of 11 qualifying chronic illnesses, then register with the state.
“By sending in some information, some photos, they pay a fee then they have that medical marijuana card,” according to DeFazio. “That card allows them to enter any of the 6 dispensaries in the state of Connecticut.”
Right now, there’s not much variety at dispensaries, because the four licensed growers are still coming up to speed. Geri Ann Bradley, owner of The Healing Corner in Bristol, says that will change soon. “Absolutely. We should have tinctures that you can put under your tongue and extracts, oils that will fit into vape pens,” said Bradley. “So people will be encouraged to vaporize.”
Right now more than 2,300 people are eligible to buy medical marijuana in Connecticut, 706 – almost a third of them – are in New Haven County. Patients can receive no more than 2.5 ounces – or 70 grams – per month. Dispensaries expect prices to range from $16 to $20 a gram, although they may be higher until growers have more product.