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Growing pains for Pa. marijuana program: Dispensaries run out of meds

by Sam Wood, Staff Writer

Too much demand. Not enough supply.

Less than two weeks after it was launched, Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program is a victim of its own success.

The two open marijuana dispensaries in the Philadelphia region reported Friday that they had sold out of most medicines and might not be restocked until after March 15.

“We have no inventory,” said Chris Visco, co-owner of the TerraVida Holistic Center in Sellersville, Bucks County. “We took a shipment on Wednesday. On Thursday, we had the biggest sales day we’ve ever had. By this morning, all we had left were a handful of disposable vape pens,” a type of electronic cigarette loaded with hash oil.

Supplies were so limited at the Keystone Shop in Devon that the owners decided on Thursday to shutter it. A notice on the dispensary’s website said it would remain closed until further notice.

“We’re looking at resuming sales the third week in March,” said Skip Shuda, Keystone Shop’s chief operating officer. “It’s frustrating for us, and it’s frustrating for a lot of patients who were looking for medicine.”

Several factors caused the drought. Chiefly, only one of Pennsylvania’s 12 licensed marijuana wholesalers, Cresco Yeltrah, is shipping to retailers. Two additional growers aren’t expected to have their crops harvested and processed into medicines until late March.

Visco said TerraVida was overwhelmed by the number of patients.

“I had projected 60 people initially for the entire month,” Visco said. “We had over 600 patients in our first eight days.”

TerraVida will remain open with modified hours for patient consultations and pre-orders, Visco said.

“Pennsylvania’s market is much larger than anybody anticipated,” Visco said. “No one could have projected it.”

In Bethlehem, Keystone Canna Remedies was down to a small number of cartridges filled with indica oil and some concentrates. Owner Victor Guadagnino said the shop was limiting sales to two cartridges per customer and would remain open to provide patient consultations.

“We’re going through some growing pains,” Guadagnino said. “But as other providers come on line, I don’t think we’ll see this issue again.”

Despite limited product offerings, Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana sales start strong

By Bart Schaneman

Pennsylvania’s first days of medical marijuana sales have been limited by a lack of product variety, but overall, business owners are calling the launch a success.

While supplies are limited based on only one producer providing product, business owners don’t seem overly concerned about inventory.

Beginning Feb. 15, six dispensaries almost daily began selling medical cannabis in the form of concentrates and oils:

  • Cresco Yeltrah in Butler
  • Organic Remedies, Enola
  • Keystone Canna Remedies, Bethlehem
  • Solevo, Pittsburgh
  • TerraVida Holistic Center, Sellersville
  • Keystone Shops, Devon

“We’re trying to get through the next three weeks as the other growers come online,” said Victor Guadagnino, owner of Keystone Canna in Bethlehem.

“This week will be telling, but I think we’ll be OK.”

Cresco Yeltrah is the only producer/processor with its own cannabis ready for sale at the moment, and several businesses sold out some of their products over the weekend. But they didn’t seem worried about supply.

Pennsylvania’s medical market has developed rapidly since 2016, when Gov. Tom Wolf signed a law legalizing sales of medical marijuana.

Legalized MMJ was the culmination of years of negotiations and delays, but the state is now poised to become one of the largest MMJ markets in the country.

According to the state, more than 700 doctors have either completed or are in the process of completing the necessary steps to certify patients.

Nearly 3,000 patients have medical marijuana ID cards, and more than 17,000 are registered for the program.

The law allows for 25 cultivation licenses and 50 dispensary licenses. Each dispensary is allotted up to three different locations.

Two more dispensaries were recently approved to begin sales – Cure Pennsylvania in Phoenixville and Cure Pennsylvania in Lancaster – bringing to eight the number of MMJ outlets.

The program doesn’t allow smokable flower or edibles, but it does permit the sale of concentrates, tinctures and oils.

Pennsylvania’s program includes 17 qualifying conditions for patients, including severe pain.

So far, so good

TerraVida Holistic Center in Sellersville, a Philadelphia suburb, started sales Saturday.

Co-owner Chris Visco said the first day went great, with about 150 customers buying from her store.

She estimated total sales for the first day were around $20,000.

Customers were spending a little over $200 per transaction.

The situation was similar at Keystone Canna, which opened Friday.

By Monday, Guadagnino said his store had served about 150 patients, and he estimated total sales at $25,000-$30,000.

His customers were also averaging about $200 per transaction.

Eric Hauser, co-owner of Organic Remedies in Enola, near Harrisburg, said sales have been going well since he opened Friday.

He estimated he’s had about 80 customers who averaged $200-$300 per transaction.

Hauser sold out of most concentrates, capsules and 1:1 THC-CBD vape pens. He’s expecting another shipment Thursday.

“So we should be in pretty good shape,” he said.

To conserve its supplies, TerraVida went for a softer open.

“We may run out of more products today, but we’re getting another shipment tomorrow,” Visco said.

What are people buying?

At both Keystone Canna and TerraVida, live resin cartridges and concentrates were best-sellers.

In terms of strains, Guadagnino said Durban Poison, a sativa, was popular and Bio Jesus, an indica, also sold well.

Guadagnino was selling live-resin, 500-milligram cartridges for $65. Half grams of concentrates sold for $35 and full grams for $70.

Experienced patients have been interested in Rick Simpson Oil cartridges, Guadagnino said.

Less-experienced MMJ patients have been favoring products high in CBD, according to Guadagnino.

“They have good medicinal value,” he said, “and they’re good for people who are not too familiar with THC products.”

Visco said TerraVida sold through its CBD products quickly.

“We could have sold a lot more CBD products had we had them in stock,” she said.

“We sold out of our THC-CBD 1:1 capsules, which were the only capsules we had during the day.”

TerraVida had one shatter strain, and it sold out. People also wanted to buy wax and budder.

“A lot of concentrates,” Visco said.

At TerraVida, a gram of shatter was one of the more expensive products on the store’s shelves at $75. A gram of wax was selling for $60 and budder and live sugar for $65.

A 500-milligram cartridge of CO2 or live resin cannabis oil was selling for $60.

“We looked at our pricing and we feel that we’re very competitive compared to other states that have come before us,” Visco said.

Hauser differentiated Organic Remedies customers by novice and experienced.

The novice customers were more likely to favor the higher CBD oils, while the more experienced customers went for shatter, budder and Rick Simpson Oils, he said.

“We’re still working off a limited product selection, so that’s pretty much the range of what we have,” Hauser said.

Organic Remedies was selling 500-milligram cartridges for $70-$95. A gram of concentrate cost $85.

Looking ahead

Visco is also looking forward to more growers coming online to bolster her product level and add more assortment of products.

She expects two more growers to be providing product to the market once they’ve harvested their marijuana.

“We definitely need more CBD,” she said. “We have a lot of children that need to be treated for autism and epilepsy.”

Pennsylvania Gives Approval To First Medical Marijuana Dispensary

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania officials on Thursday announced the first all-clear for a medical marijuana dispensary in the state to begin providing the drug once it becomes available from a licensed grower.

The Keystone Canna Remedies dispensary in Bethlehem received the state authorization, a major milestone in Pennsylvania’s new medical marijuana program.

“It means there’s going to be safe and effective access to a new medicine that can help (patients) in a wide variety of ways,” said Victor Guadagnino, the company’s co-founder and chief of business development. He said the company sees the drug as a way patients can take a more active role in their own health care.

 

Nine entities have been approved to grow and process medical marijuana, and their products are expected to be available to patients in the coming four months.

Gov. Tom Wolf said the approval is good news for patients and their caregivers.

“We are one step closer to providing medical marijuana to patients with serious medical conditions who desperately need this medication,” the Democratic governor said.

Guadagnino, who lives in New York City, said the dispensary in Bethlehem will open this month for educational workshops and registration assistance, but he does not expect to have the product available until mid-February.

The Bethlehem dispensary, which Guadagnino said is part of their multimillion-dollar medical marijuana investment in the region, will start with four or five employees and grow based on patient demand. The company also plans to eventually open two other dispensaries in the Lehigh Valley.

Acting Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said officials expect more dispensaries to open in the coming weeks.

The announcement of the first dispensary came as the U.S. Justice Department said federal prosecutors are being given more latitude to pursue criminal charges involving marijuana. In response, Wolf vowed to do whatever he can “to protect Pennsylvania patients.”

A 2016 state law legalized medical marijuana for people suffering from one of 17 qualifying conditions, including AIDS, autism, cancer, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and Crohn’s disease.

 

Read the full article HERE.