Out of the 33 states with medical marijuana, the hashish advocacy group Americans For Safe Access ranked Maine’s program as ninth greatest within the nation in 2018. And one dispensary group runs half of Maine’s dispensaries: the Wellness Connection of Maine.
With 4 places in Portland, Brewer, Gardiner and Thomaston, the Wellness Connection of Maine has helped propel the state to the top of medical marijuana by prioritizing professionalism and schooling above all else.
“Whatever we do, from selecting decorations for the interior to thinking about our educational outreach, the goal is to support and assist patients as they get to know this medicine,” says Becky DeKeuster, the co-founder and director of group and schooling on the Wellness Connection.
DeKeuster says that the Wellness Connection follows a philosophy she discovered whereas working for the Berkeley Patients Group in California. “We think of our dispensaries as community centers,” she says, “as gathering spaces that are educationally based.”
So, since its founding in 2011, the Wellness Connection has participated in metropolis commerce conferences. They have educated physicians on the endocannabinoid system and sufferers on their rights when speaking to physicians about hashish. They have opened dispensaries in buildings which have sat vacant for many years to revitalize native economies. They’re trying to create a hashish hospice program for his or her state’s many senior residents. And they’ve donated $60,000 to charities — principally healthcare associated — throughout the state.
“We’re grateful that we can make these donations, but it’s about so much more than dollars and cents,” stated Patricia Rosi, CEO of the Wellness Connection of Maine. “It’s about being part of and connecting with the community in positive ways.”
Upon getting into one of the Wellness Connection’s 4 dispensaries, a affected person feels the embodiment of this community-oriented philosophy, coalescing with the distinctive affect the state of Maine and its medical marijuana legal guidelines wield.
Maine legalized medical marijuana in 1999, however solely handed a measure to permit dispensaries in 2009, and has but to systematically capitalize on the leisure legalization measures of 2016. However, whereas Maine does have an extended historical past of medical marijuana, the state’s program nonetheless doesn’t benefit from the type of mainstream publicity and acceptance that Western states like California do.
“In New England, when we got started in 2009, there was certainly skepticism from the public, and so each dispensary is sensitive to the need to present a very professional front, but not in a cold or clinical way,” says DeKeuster. “When folks come to us, they get to sit down with one of our member liaisons for an intake interview that takes as long as the patient needs to be comfortable about the laws and the medicine.”
However, Maine has an extended custom of individuals cultivating for themselves, DeKeuster says, partially as a result of it has a small, largely rural inhabitants unfold over a big geographical space. Thanks to the historical past of self-cultivation, DeKeuster says the state has been on the leading edge of innovation in phrases of the varieties of hashish they develop, which the Wellness Connection takes benefit of to cross-breed strains that greatest match their sufferers’ wants. The group of dispensaries has a big rising facility in Auburn that they are going to be tripling the dimensions of to 60,000 sq. ft in 2016 to maintain up with demand. They additionally don’t use pesticides, and have self-imposed lab testing of all their merchandise for mould, mildew and efficiency ranges.
Maine’s inhabitants has responded positively to the Wellness Connection. Their dispensaries are so open, shiny and clear — with comfortable black armchairs, tan hardwood flooring and pea-green partitions — that DeKeuster says most individuals stroll in and say, “Wow, this was not what I expected.”
When their doorways first opened, the dispensary group had about 200 sufferers and 5 staff. Four years later, they’ve over 11,000 sufferers and 65 staff. And there isn’t any common buyer of the Wellness Connection of Maine, DeKeuster says. Instead, individuals throughout the socioeconomic spectrum, throughout job industries and throughout all ages go to their dispensaries. “There is not any one descriptor that I would use for our patient base other than ‘representative of Maine,’” says DeKeuster.
“I think again people might forget about us here in the upper right-hand corner of the country, and in many ways that’s okay,” says DeKeuster. “Maine is a small state, we can’t forget that we are a model… We need to keep patients front and center, and we need to keep striving forward.”
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Originally revealed in Issue 19 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE