The Houma-Thibodaux area’s first and only authorized medical marijuana dispensary opened its doors today to a constant flow of patients from all over South Louisiana.
Green Leaf Dispensary, located at 6048 W. Park Ave. in Houma, opened in April, but a delayed testing of state supplies of medical marijuana led the pharmacy to not be able to distribute any product.
However, today the dispensary was able to deliver medicine to its patients.
“We've been overwhelmed, prior to opening today, with the phone calls, patient engagement and doctors in the community. So, we've been overwhelmed with requests,” said Green Leaf President and Owner Omar Pecantte. “Even today we've been overwhelmed with patients coming in. However, we’ve been able to manage the flow and steadily improve the process so patients can get in, get educated, get informed so that they will have a great working knowledge on how the medicine works and their responsibility. And of course, we call or inform the physician if any questions may arise regarding their treatment.”
Pecantte said he knew he wanted to be involved in the distribution of the medicine after seeing his grandmother, who suffered from cancer, deal with the side effects of radiation treatments.
“So, ever since I was a kid, I knew that if there was something that would come along -- where at least somebody else could have a better quality of life -- I wanted to be involved,” he said. “Once we got information that the State was moving to be able to dispense this particular medication, I knew I wanted to be involved.”
The distribution of medical marijuana has been debated in the United States for many years, however, the use of the drug for medicinal purposes is now legal in 33 states.
“For many seriously ill people, medical marijuana is the only medicine that relieves their pain and suffering, or treats symptoms of their medical condition, without debilitating side effects,” reads drugpolicy.org. “Marijuana has been shown to alleviate symptoms of a huge variety of serious medical conditions including cancer, AIDS and glaucoma, and is often an effective alternative to synthetic painkillers.”
Medical marijuana is used to treat several other conditions, according to WebMD, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, eating disorders, and multiple sclerosis, among others.
“It’s a true advancement as far as medicine goes,” said Dr. Donald Richard, pharmacist in charge (over 31 years of practice) and co-owner of Green Leaf. “This provides a level of pain relief without the addictive nature of opioids because that has devastated this region, our state and the country,” Pecantte added.
Nonetheless, the debate has continued because of the possible negative effects of the drug.
Marijuana’s effects “can interfere with attention, judgment and balance,” according to Kim Zimmermann of Live Science. Zimmermann also referenced at 2016 study by the University of Michigan Health System that found that the use of marijuana may also make other addictions worse.
Green Leaf offers such cannabis products as oils, extracts, tinctues, sprays, gelatin-based chewables, lotions, solid oil capsules and more, as listed on their website: greenleaf-dispensary.com.
Pecantte noted that their products are tested by state agencies and free of any pesticides, insecticides or any heavy metals.
“It's a matter of people getting a product that's safe enough for the public, and that's what it's all about...The main priority is the safety for the public,” Dr. Richard said. “It’s been delayed, but now we got the ball rolling.”
The Houma pharmacy is the only authorized medical marijuana dispensary in a 7-parish area: Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, Assumption, St. James, St. John the Baptist and St. Charles.
One patient eagerly waited in the lobby this afternoon for her chance to see the pharmacists. The Luling-resident traveled to Green Leaf after a suggestion by her doctor. She suffers from HIV, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, and has been on non-cannabis medications for nearly 20 years.
“... [I’m] in constant pain,” she shared. “I’m hoping that that this could not only help with pain but also help me get the proper rest at night, so I can eventually get off other medications...I’m hoping.”