Friday, September 30, 2016
Written by an EV Grieve regular who wishes to remain anonymous
I had the opportunity to visit Columbia Care on East 14th Street last week as a patient.
First, I had to get a recommendation from a doctor and then use that to apply for a medical marijuana card from the New York State Department of Health to schedule an appointment with Columbia Care.
The card arrived in overnight mail looking very much like a driver's license. In fact, it had been mailed from the DMV and included the picture from my driver's license.
The doctor I visited had to be registered with the New York State Department of Health as a prescriber of medical marijuana. His office looked like a typical therapist's office. He saw me and, after reviewing my medical records and a consultation with his assistant (a marijuana expert from California, she told me), he gave me his recommendation on a form that he registered with the state while we chatted.
His office visit fee of $200 was paid on a Square attachment to his iPhone by debit card. The card from New York State cost $50 and they said they would bill me for it. The doctor's appointment was not covered by health insurance.
The Columbia Care facility, which opened in early January, is on 14th Street between Second Avenue and Third Avenue. You must get buzzed in to the facility. A security guard sits inside the front door. He asked to see my ID card. After I showed it to him and mentioned my appointment, he turned to a small window where the receptionist sits and told him my name. They granted me access into the vestibule, and then through one more door.
The reception area is a soft white-light environment not unlike the waiting room for a high-tech spa complete with similar lighting and pleasing background music.
I was a little early so I took a seat. Right at my scheduled time, a pharmacist in a white lab-style coat came out of the back room and led me into the actual dispensary.
The dispensary was similarly lit, but it looked like a high-tech eyeglass store with glass display counters on one side. We continued past all this into an area that was labeled "patient consultation room." Here was a small conference room with a table and four chairs. It was very businesslike.
She sat down on the opposite side of the table from me and consulted my records. She then proceeded to ask me a few follow-up questions related to my experience with using marijuana and what type of medications I was taking at the time for the conditions that I was trying to treat. Then she told me about the product — what I was there to find out about. The big reveal!
The pharmacist said that they produced two different types of products: one was a tincture, which is an alcohol-based soluble mixture with marijuana that you put underneath your tongue. The other is a type of concentrated oil in a capsule that you use in a vapor pen.
The third type of product, pills or capsules filled with the marijuana, which is legal in New York State, is not currently available at Columbia. There isn't any smokeable or edible marijuana of any kind for sale.
Each type of product came in three varieties. The first type was 25 part Cannabinol to one part THC, the second type was equal parts Cannabinol to THC, and the third type was 25 parts THC to one part Cannabinol. She told me that the first type was best for nerve pain and the third type was more like an opiate-style pain killer.
So based on my medical records and what I told her, she recommended that I try the second mixed type in the vapor oil pen format. She then demonstrated how to use the vapor pen and how often to use it (three times a day to start).
As health insurance does not cover the costs medical marijuana, I had to pay out of pocket. She told me that one capsule would be $100 and it would be around 90 puffs (4ml). At her recommendation of three puffs per day, this would be a one-month supply. This price seemed expensive to me based on previous quotes I have seen for this type of medical marijuana product in California and Colorado. However, I figured I would try it out because I got this far.
With the battery pack, the final price was $110. She brought me back into the dispensary, where I received my product in what turned out to be hard-to-open containers. The counter person gave me final instructions on how to use the product and also told me "don't freak out if the pen doesn't work or stops working — that probably just means that you need to charge the battery."
Upon returning home, I sorted through all the packaging and read over the directions. Then I charged up the battery and away I went. I must say that the medicine there is a quality product, and it did have a positive impact on the medical conditions that I am treating.
Regardless, I do feel that the price at Columbia Care is too steep based on other comparisons of similar products. Makes sense — there isn't any competition. Columbia Care is the only dispensary in Manhattan at this time, and New York State made the start-up cost prohibitively expensive with ridiculous restrictions.
In any event, I had a good experience and I hope that this opening of the door into medical marijuana will progress down the line similar to California, where recreational use is on the ballot this year.