Pennsylvania’s first medical marijuana dispensary gets ready to open for patients

BETHLEHEM, NORTHAMPTON COUNTY, Pa. -- Pennsylvania's first medical marijuana dispensary will soon open its doors to patients.

Officials at Keystone Canna Remedies held an open house for the media on Wednesday, but afterwards, the facility will only be open to patients with a state licensed medical marijuana ID card.

Pennsylvania Department of Health Acting Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said "we're very exciting about this event. It brings us one step closer, to having medical marijuana available in Pennsylvania for patients with serious medical conditions."

The opening of a medical marijuana dispensary in Pennsylvania, is a day 12,000 register patients have been waiting to happen.

Keystone Canna Remedies chief business development officer Victor Guadagnino said "we are the first medical marijuana dispensary to open in the state. When we set down this road almost two years ago, I didn't imagine that we would be here. We did really push hard,. Our focus was always patient education, and a pharmacy model."

Despite being designed with a pharmacy model in mind, the medical marijuana dispensary doesn't appear to be cold or clinical.

Keystone Canna Remedies director of pharmacy Dr. Brad Carlson said "cannabis is medicine, marijuana is medicine. We want the patient experience to be very positive, so that we can start giving patients the access that they deserve."

"We don't want people to feel like their doing something wrong, a lot of the patients who have already reached out, are seeking relief," Guadagnino said.

Keystone Canna Remedies is a multi-part facility in which visitors first enter an area set aside to educate doctors and potential patients.

"The second part of the facility is the patient access area, that's the dispensing area where our consult rooms are, and the dispensing counter and where the product will be. It's a completely secured room, through surveillance, motion sensors and other security systems," Guadagnino said.

"When they come in for a consult, it's our educational opportunity, we get to learn about the patient, e get to learn about what disease state they qualify for, that registers them for the program," Carlson said.

Only registered patients will be allowed in the secured area. Some may wonder how to become a patient.

"Register with the Department of Health, find a physician who is also certified to recommend medical marijuana, consult with that physician, that physician will fill out a patient certification form. That certification form will be submitted to the Department of Health for approval. Once that's approved, that medical marijuana ID card will be mailed to the patient," Guadagnino.

"This is a medical program for patients with serious medical conditions. Medical marijuana will provide one more tool in the tool box for physicians to be able to help patients. I think that they have designed an excellent facility that will accomplish that," Levine said.

Pennsylvania's first dispensary will be ready to welcome patients in February. Keystone Canna Remedies also will host workshops for people interested in learning more about medical marijuana.