TIVERTON — A sure way to draw a crowd these day is to advertise a free seminar about medical marijuana. That’s what Tiverton’s Senior Center did Monday, March 10.
Most left pleased by what they’d heard.
“I thought the presentation was good,” said one woman who asked not to be identified. “But there were no samples.”
“Just about everybody in this room would consider using it, but it’s not covered by insurance,” said Anne LeBreux, 81, who’d come from Massachusetts to “to get information about what it’s all about … Seniors would use it if it was covered by insurance.” She gave the presentation high grades — “and they didn’t use 25 dollar words, so we could understand it.
“It was an excellent turnout,” said Janice Gomes, the Senior Center’s director. The audience was all women. It was likely most of them were over 65 or 70 —some would have been around back in the late 1960s
The two speakers were the only (younger) men in the room.
Greenleaf director, and its chief financial officer, Richard Radebach was the first to speak.
“Greenleaf is one of two licensed compassionate care centers in the state,” he said. It opened in June, 2013. “There’s much going on in the area,” he said, with 22 states now having state-approved medical marijuana programs. The State of Rhode Island began its program in 2006.
Present with Mr. Radebach was Tony Caputi, 57, who said he is a 14-year prostate cancer survivor, suffered chronic neck pain from a severe automobile accident, and has been diagnosed with Lyme Disease.
Mr. Caputi said he has a long list of medical sensitivities, and that medical marijuana helps to treat his conditions.
“I was talking to a woman the other day who was taking 10 different medications, and she was extremely grateful for medical marijuana,” he said.
In short order, Mr. Caputi turned to questions to guide his presentation. “Why are you here?” he asked the audience.
“Curiosity,” said one woman. “I suffer from arthritis,” said another.
“There’s a salve that’s applied topically that helps arthritis,” Mr. Caputi said. A product called “Organic Salve” is listed on Greenleaf’s menu. See www.greenleafcare.org.
Other products listed on Greenleaf’s menu include: Bright Stomper, Grapefruit, Lavender/cheese, Nordic, Sour D’s Kush-Hybrid, and Williams Wonder.
The menu lists different bases and oils, along with numerous edibles, such as cherry and root beer lollipops, chocolate chip cookies, fudge brownies, peanut butter and jelly blondie brownies, butterscotch candies, and lavender oatmeal white chocolate chip cookies.
“It’s a different effect when you take it orally than when you smoke it,” Mr. Caputi said. He demonstrated (without actually using) one device called a vaporizer with which vaporized marijuana can be inhaled.
“Different types of marijuana can have different side effects,” he said. “Skilled botanists are trying to produce a product that has lower highs and is more effective for seizure disorders,” he said.
An audience member asked if you should drive if you’ve had marijuana. “You shouldn’t be driving if you’re using marijuana,” Mr. Caputi said. He also advised against smoking it in a car, because of the confusion it might cause if the car were stopped by police.
“Is it addictive?” someone asked. “It’s not addictive the way alcohol and narcotics are.”
“Is smoking the best way of administering it?” another woman asked. “I would say no, because you’re inhaling or smoking something,” Mr. Caputi said.
“Will second hand smoke affect pets?” an audience member asked.
“I have a dog and she’s never mentioned it, ” Mr. Caputi said. “Don’t leave it around though.”
“No free samples?” he was asked. “No, remember a doctor’s approval is required,” he said.
Mr. Caputi pulled out the vaporizer he uses, and walked among the audience, showing it. It’s handy in settings where no smoking is allowed, he said. Assisted living centers were mentioned.
Others had questions about vaporizers, types, sizes, costs. Show us how you use the vaporizer, one asked. What are the side effects, another asked. Another person asked — again — about free samples. The brand “Mendocino Purple,” was mentioned. Bob Marley’s name came up.
“If you’re a patient, and the qualifying condition disappears, you have an obligation to withdraw from the program, ” Mr. Caputi said, “”But most people don’t,” I suspect.
After a little over an hour, the program ended. The reaction was mostly positive.
“There were people who told me they knew someone who might try it,” said Ms. Gomes. And explaining the reasons why the audience was all women, Ms. Gomes said, “Women are more social than men, are and are more willing to accept the new.”
“It was an excellent session,” said Pat Roppe, 83, “Eventually we’re going to see medicine supporting it.”
Sally Arruda, 79, said, “I thought it was very informative, and I never knew you could take marijuana in that particular way,” referring to the vaporizer. “I would support the use of medical marijuana if it was with the doctor’s permission.”
Joan Senecal, 78, when asked if she’d consider using marijuana, said, “I don’t think so, because I’ve had bad reactions from other medications.”
Doctor’s permission needed
Medical marijuana, Mr. Radenbach said, is available in the state only through licensed facilities such as Greenleaf. A doctor’s certification — that the patient has one of a number of qualifying conditions — is necessary.
Those conditions include cancer, glaucoma, being HIV positive, Hepatitis C, and “a chronic debilitating disease or medical conditions or its treatment that produces” a number of severe or wasting syndromes. The Rhode Island Department of Health can designate other conditions.
Recipients are issued cards. Once you become a card-carrying patient, you can grow your own medical marijuana, Mr. Radebach said. “It’s not an easy plant to grow. These are very sensitive plants.”
He said Greenleaf is allowed to grow up to 150 plants. It currently has 800 patients, he said.
In no state is medical marijuana covered by insurance, he said. It is an out-of-pocket cost of around $250-$360 per ounce. Up to 10 percent discounts are available to patients on SSDI, SSI, and some veterans.
Security and confidentiality were emphasized.
The other two medical marijuana centers in Rhode Island are the Thomas C. Slater Center (Providence) and the Summit Center (Warwick).