At about 1:45 p.m. on Thursday, the door at the Solevo Wellness medical marijuana dispensary in Squirrel Hill opened, allowing in a line of patients that wrapped around the building.
“I don’t expect miracles, but it would be such a help,” said Lisa May of Bethel Park, who is seeking medication to treat her chronic pain caused by degenerative disk disease in her neck and back. “Actually, my hopes are kind of high.”
Many at the dispensary, including a staff pharmacist who didn’t want to be named, said they’re hopeful the medical marijuana can serve as an alternative to opioids.
These sales at Solevo Wellness are among the first for medicinal cannabis in the state, and the very first for the city of Pittsburgh. Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2016, but there were no dispensaries stocked with the product until Thursday.
To enter the dispensary people need a special ID, which the state issues for 17 different medical conditions including cancer, epilepsy and Crohn’s disease.
“I’m hoping the strength on it is a lot better than what’s on the street, cause if you have to buy it on the street, it’s a real pain,” said Jack Burns, who said he has suffered from PTSD since serving in the Vietnam War with the U.S. Marine Corps. “I've been waiting for this day for a long time, now you don't have to sneak around."
Currently Solevo only has medical marijuana from Cresco Yeltrah in Brookeville, the first of 10 grower-processors to deliver product to dispensaries.
"We only have a few things right now," said dispensary general manager Rocco Levine. "Cresco just pushed out as much as they could, the forms that we have most of are vape cartridges...we do have forms of wax, shattered and buttered."
Eventually dispensaries will be stocked with cannabis pills, oils, liquids, tinctures and topicals, like creams or ointments. The state licensed a total of 10 grower-processors so eventually there will be a wider variety of products.
According to Gov. Tom Wolf's office, more than 17,000 patients have applied to participate in the state's program. So far, nearly 4,000 of those individuals have been certified for use by physicians.
This post was updated at 9:57 a.m. on Feb. 16, 2018 to correct a quote.