On caregivers : unsung heroes of our medical marijuana program

The Briggs family celebrating Ryan Briggs’ certification for medical marijuana

The Briggs family celebrating Ryan Briggs’ certification for medical marijuana

Patients and caregivers only beyond this point.”

If you frequent any of the medical marijuana dispensaries in Pennsylvania, you’ve likely encountered this kind of messaging.

For some patients, visiting the dispensary is a burden—they qualify for medical marijuana, but can’t physically get to the dispensary to pick it up. Challenges including mobility, hearing, vision, transportation, and crowds are just some of the barriers facing many of our patients. There is also a community of patients who are children, homebound, or nearing end-of-life, and can’t make their own medical decisions.

That’s where state-approved caregivers come in. Caregivers are issued cards, just like patients, that permit them to enter a dispensary, purchase medical marijuana, and deliver it directly to the patient.

There is such a need for caregivers that one Pennsylvania family created an organization to reach these underserved patient communities. Inspired by her son’s positive response to medical marijuana therapy for his Intractable Epilepsy, Diana Briggs and her daughter, Alexis, created Pennsylvania Compassionate Caregivers to match patients with caregivers in their area.

“PA Compassionate Caregivers was founded for one reason: to help those who can’t access this amazing plant on their own gain access to medical marijuana in Pennsylvania,” says Diana, who was one of the leading advocates for Act 16 when the Pennsylvania legislature passed it in 2016.

“Not everyone has a support system or family members willing to help get them cannabis. Many others are just learning how to deal with an end of life diagnosis for their loved one and don’t have time to navigate the caregiver registration process. That’s where we step in. We become that support system.”  

answers to some of the frequently asked questions about caregivers:

·      Patients can elect up to two caregivers. For example, in Ryan Briggs’ case, both his mother and sister are registered caregivers and can pick up medication on his behalf at any Pennsylvania dispensary.

·      A caregiver can be matched with up to five patients at one time. “There have been many times I’ve had five patients under me,” Diana reports. “From children in the hospital whose parents don’t want to leave their side, to homebound seniors who had no one else to help after the physician provided a bedside certification.”

·      You don’t need to know any specific patient to enroll as a caregiver. Diana encourages all cannabis advocates to consider joining the program as caregivers, even if you don’t personally know someone in need. She and the Department of Health regularly receive calls from patients who are looking to be matched with a caregiver in their area. 

Who can be a caregiver?

Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Caregivers must:

-Be Pennsylvania residents

-Be age 21 or older with valid ID.

-Submit fingerprinting and background checks. Caregivers will not be approved if they have a conviction of criminal sale or possession of drugs, narcotics, or controlled substances within the last five years.

How do I become a caregiver?

To register as a caregiver, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health registration page. Under “caregivers” you will see four different options for caregiver registration.

·      Adult Patient Caregiver Registration: use this link to register as a caregiver for a patient 18 or older who is already in the system.

·      Caregiver registering for an existing patient: use this link to register as a caregiver for a patient who is already in the system but will NOT be visiting the dispensary, such as a minor or homebound patient.

·      Caregiver registering for a new patient: use this link to register as a caregiver for a patient who is not yet in the system and will NOT be visiting the dispensary, such as a minor or homebound patient.

·      DOH Approved Caregiver Registration: use this link to register as a caregiver in the state, not for any specific patient(s). By registering through this link, you give the state permission to share your contact information with patients in your area who need a caregiver.

Once registered, you will be directed to complete the mandated fingerprinting and background check. This process can take 4-6 weeks for approval, and when complete, your final step is to log into your profile and pay the $50 card fee. 

Help advocate to the Department of Health

We regularly hear from caregivers about the need for refined registration and renewal processes. We encourage all current and prospective patients and caregivers to contact the PA Department of Health Office of Medical Marijuana:

1.888.733.5595 OR RA-DHMEDMARIJUANA@PA.GOV

Diana’s final word: “For anyone who is thinking of joining us at PACC remember these words that describe our mission best. We are the helpers!”   

For more information about PA Compassionate Caregivers or how to get involved, visit their website, Facebook, or contact Diana directly at dianabpacc@gmail.com

Local print house Commonwealth Press builds medical marijuana into employee health benefits 

Photo by Matt Dayak

Maitri’s printing partner, Commonwealth Press, hosted a medical marijuana education and certification workshop for its employees this week.

Owners Dan and Shannon Rugh subsidized a portion of the cost of a medical marijuana card certification as part of the healthcare benefits package they offer employees. More than half of the Commonwealth Press team took advantage of the new benefit and got certified for their medical marijuana cards.

"Hard work like screen printing takes a daily toll on your body, especially after 18 years. Through multiple conversations with friends and family about the positive aspects they have experienced with medicinal marijuana, I began to look into it as a treatment for arthritis. After a conversation with our friends at Maitri Medicinals, I realized it could be an overall company benefit for the whole health of our employees. I have little doubt that these kinds of benefits will become the norm sooner than later and am proud to help set that standard."

The Medical Marijuana Specialists nurse/physician team set up shop on site at the company’s production facility in the Beltzhoover neighborhood of Pittsburgh to certify the participating employees.

“Why should we wait for Apple, Amazon or some other big corporation to announce they’re doing this when we can do it first?” said Shannon Rugh, Co-Owner, Commonwealth Press, who believes that cannabis offers many medical benefits.

“While many companies are reviewing their policies around medical marijuana consumption and drug testing, Commonwealth Press has boldly stepped forward and taken action for the benefit of their employees, “ said Corinne Ogrodnik, Maitri’s CEO and Co-Founder.  “Dan and Shannon recognize that traditional pharmaceutical therapy is only one of many approaches to wellness. We applaud them for their forward-thinking stance in offering a comprehensive healthcare package to employees that includes education and access to medical marijuana therapy, and we hope to see other local companies following their lead.”

In addition to its production warehouse, Commonwealth Press has two retail stores in Bloomfield and Mount Lebanon. The company currently employs 20 people across its three Pittsburgh locations.

Do you know other local companies that have cannabis friendly policies? Let us know at contact@maitrimeds.com

 

 

 

 

Check out Maitri's One Year Anniversary Menu and Video

Video by Matt Dayak. Narrated by Maitri Medicinals Founder and CEO, Corinne Ogrodnik. Footage shot in both Uniontown and Pittsburgh dispensaries.

Maitri Birthday Menu

10% off the following items in both Pittsburgh and Uniontown while supplies last. Discount only available on Wednesday, September 4. Fast track reservations accepted but must be picked up by close of business on September 4. 

Capsules

  • Terrapin CBD iPhoric Regular Strength Capsules (20 pack)

  • Terrapin iRem 10:1 CBD/THC Regular Strength Capsules (20 pack)

  • Terrapin iRest Regular Strength Capsules (20 pack)

Cartridges

  • GTI HEAL Otto (w/ Black Cherry Terpenes) 500mg Cart

  • GTI HEAL Pre-98 Bubba Kush 500mg Cart

  • Ilera DREAM 500mg Cart

Concentrates

  • Cresco Lime Sorbet Live Resin Sugar (1g)

  • Ilera Orange Krush Shatter (1g)

  • Moxie Slymer Live Resin Sugar (.5g)

  • Moxie Super Lemon Haze Cured Resin Shatter (.5g)

  • Moxie Tangie Live Resin Badder (.5g)

  • Prime Wellness Krypto's Kush Live Resin (1g)

Disposable Pens

  • Cresco Pineapple Express 250mg BHO Disposable Pen

  • Cresco Sojay Haze 250mg BHO Disposable Pen

  • GTI Sour Joker 300mg Disposable Pen

Distillate

  • Standard Farms Bruce Banner 1000mg CO2 Syringe

  • Standard Farms Super Silver Haze 1000mg CO2 Syringe

  • Terrapin CBD 1:1 iRest Applicator

Pods

  • Standard Farms Super Silver Haze 500mg Pod

  • Terrapin 1:1 Cherry Lemonade 500mg TerraPod

  • Terrapin 1:1 Superfood 500mg TerraPod

RSO

  • Grassroots Red Headed Stranger 1000mg RSO

  • Prime Wellness 1:1 Balanced Blend 1000mg RSO

  • Prime Wellness THC Blend 1000mg RSO

Tinctures

  • Ilera HOPE #1 Tincture

  • Ilera SOOTHE Tincture

  • Ilera THC+ Tincture


Click here to place your Fast Track reservation for Pittsburgh
Click here to place your Fast Track reservation for Uniontown.

Honoring survivors and revivers this International Overdose Awareness Day

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By Katie Houston
Prevention Point Pittsburgh

I work for Prevention Point Pittsburgh, the only syringe service program (SSP) in the western part of PA.  In Pennsylvania there are only two authorized SSPs in the entire state: ours in Allegheny County and Prevention Point Philadelphia. That means most Pennsylvanians are unable to access lifesaving services that help prevent the spread of blood borne diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C.

We are obviously a place where folks are able to access sterile syringes, but we do so much more than that. We offer free HIV, Hep C, and other STD testing so folks know their status. We offer wound care assistance, so folks can seek medical help without worrying about judgement. 

And of course, we provide naloxone, the opioid overdose reversing drug, to keep folks alive. Since we started our Overdose Prevention Project in 2005, our participants have reported over 3,000 overdose reversals. This number is almost surely an underestimate.

As I reflect on International Overdose Awareness Day, I think of all the amazing people I have met who utilize our program.

I think of the folks who drive hours to PPP, sometimes across state lines, to pick up sterile supplies not only for themselves, but for others in their community who don’t have consistent, local access to unused sharps and works.

I think of the parents who’ve come to pick up naloxone to keep their children safe, and of their faces when they ask me, “What do I say when people tell me we should just let them die? That when they say that they are talking about my child?”

A participant recently came to our office to pick up extra naloxone. She shared the story of the five overdoses she reversed just within the last couple of months. This woman, who is a person who uses drugs, is a life saver. The participants of Prevention Point Pittsburgh are life savers. 

I am lucky to get to work with these life savers, but many are surprised to hear me say this. Society views people who use drugs so poorly that some people are shocked when I talk about how much I love my job. We are only taught to view people as their drug of choice. But they are artists. They are aspiring chefs. They are nurses, mothers, fathers, children, funny, and compassionate.

They are life savers.

Think about how many times you’ve heard someone say the word “junkie” or “addict” with disdain in their voice. This must change, now. Stigma combined with punitive prohibition style laws does nothing but continue to isolate people and further disenfranchise the poor and people of color in America. By constantly condemning those who use drugs, we are forcing them to hide.

What if we decided to take a different approach? Instead of punishment, we listen, we offer safe places where folks can be themselves, we help people access the services and resources they need to live, we work to end poverty, we increase compassion?  This is what harm reduction is about and this is why I work at Prevention Point Pittsburgh.

•••

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Click here to watch the footage of first hand stories of overdose survival and revival from Prevention Point Pittsburgh’s Survivors and Revivers event, which took place on August 27, 2019.

On addiction: An open letter from a prohibition mom turned medical marijuana pharmacist

Maitri Medicinals Director of Pharmacy, Terri Kroh, and her son, Ryan

Maitri Medicinals Director of Pharmacy, Terri Kroh, and her son, Ryan

A prohibition mom

My story is not unlike many in America today. I grew up with the war on drugs. My children were indoctrinated with the D.A.R.E campaign and there was no tolerance for drugs in my household. Just Say No, right?

As a pharmacist, I learned the mechanism of action of many drugs, and of the biochemical process of addiction. But I wasn’t taught in pharmacy school that opioids were addicting—and could kill you—or that the health of every individual depends on the endocannabinoid system working appropriately.

I would eventually come to understand these things first hand from one of my life’s greatest teachers, my son Ryan.

The drug war in my household began when Ryan was 15 years old. The local police department arrived at my home early one Saturday morning–dogs and all. Busted with a bong made out of a water bottle, Ryan landed in a 12-step program, and in and out of rehab. This was the tragic twist for Ryan—these programs were grounded in the philosophy that abstinence from all drugs was the path to recovery—an approach I now believe isn’t right for everyone.

It’s worse than you can imagine sleeping on the floor with your child while they go through opioid withdrawal. Hearing the words, “Help me, Mom,” but not the district attorney or the coroner felt extremely encouraging at the time. But when Ryan asked for marijuana to ease the pain, I refused. “I’ll get you some Pepto-Bismol instead to help with the nausea and vomiting.” I flushed his pot down the toilet more times than I want to admit.

Eventually, I’d find out that marijuana really does help battle addiction. That it’s not a gateway drug. That 7-14 days on an antibiotic isn’t going to cure it. That addiction is not a moral failing.

Addiction is a disease.

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Harm reduction gave us hope

As a pharmacist working in the harm reduction community, I accepted that people used drugs of all kinds. My job was to keep them safe while using drugs. Though I knew it was less harmful, I couldn’t get past marijuana being a Schedule 1 drug. It helped our patients with HIV and cancer, but I didn’t really understand how or why.

The opioid epidemic had yet to become front page news. During those years, I was fortunate to work with an amazing team of harm reduction advocates. They were brutally honest with me that my son could die. Thanks to Prevention Point Pittsburgh, I was able to access Naloxone, the life-saving drug that can reverse an opioid overdose.

Ryan’s survival became our family’s focus. I taught his younger sisters how to recognize an overdose and how to use the vial of Naloxone to save their brother.

The counselors offered but one solution: “Tough love.” “Let him hit rock bottom.” “Don’t enable.”  “Kick him to the curb.”

It was tough love for me to teach my son how to use his drug of choice safely in order to stay alive, or how to prevent an overdose. To constantly be reminding him:

Don’t use alone.

Don’t share your works.

If you have no clean water, use the back of the toilet, not the bowl.

Keep Naloxone on your person.

Save your friends, don’t you dare walk away.

Call 911, perform rescue breathing.

This wasn’t permission from Mom to get high—it was survival training. It was for my son to know that I accepted and loved him despite his drug use.

The prescription for Naloxone didn’t stop him from using drugs, nor did it result in his overdose reversal, but it gave him a chance to keep fighting and to know there was no judgement. I felt his pain. I wanted to pull him out of the shame and stigma associated with drug addiction instead of pushing him further into it.

I couldn’t save him but damn, I tried. Ryan would sadly lose his battle with addiction at the age of 20 years old.

Ry is my Why

How did I end up working at a medical marijuana company seven years later? I’m now educated on the science behind why medical marijuana works for opioid use disorder. I see truly amazing success stories every day at Maitri. People who could barely walk because they were so overly medicated are opioid-free one month later and look like completely different people. Others are down to just one pill at night when the pain catches up with them.

I see with such clarity now what my boy was trying to tell me. Medical marijuana works, and it helped him! I just couldn’t wrap my head around it then.

I have the power of my voice back now. I’m ready, willing and strong. I know that I have found a way to create good from Ryan’s life. I am humbled and grateful to walk besides those who are overcoming these powerful drugs and thriving.

Terri Kroh in a patient consultation at Maitri’s Uniontown dispensary.

Terri Kroh in a patient consultation at Maitri’s Uniontown dispensary.

Medical marijuana therapy for opioid use disorder

Every patient has different goals, and we create custom tapering plans for everyone at Maitri. Here are some of the things we tell all our patients battling opioid use disorder:

  • Maitri is a safe space.  We are real people who’ve gone through a lot of these same challenges. We’ll walk with you on your journey. We want you to feel zero shame about your disease.

  • Focus on strains that are high in Beta Caryophyllene, because it’s a very potent anti-inflammatory agent, as well as Linalool and Limonene because they’re good for anxiety and depression.

  • Consider starting with a 1:1 THC:CBD strain. Many patients trying to taper off opioids don’t want to feel high, and the CBD in a 1:1 will help balance the euphoria that THC can bring.

  • Remember that as you taper, your opioid tolerance goes down. This is critical to keep in mind if you decide to increase your opioid dosage again.

  • Always talk to your doctor and pharmacist before changing the dosage of your opioids or medical marijuana—all drugs have potential side effects, risks and benefits. We are fortunate to have many physicians who will collaborate with us on a treatment plan that gradually tapers their patients off opioids.

  • There have been no reported marijuana overdoses resulting in death.

I know now that the endocannabinoid system has its own natural harm reduction abilities, and that medical marijuana can potentially reduce the harm caused by chemical imbalances in the body. If my son were here today, I’d offer him the following harm reduction tips for treating opioid use disorder with medical marijuana therapy:

  • Don’t mix medical marijuana with other drugs, including alcohol, because it can potentiate the effects.

  • Talk with your health care provider about how all your prescription medications—not just opioids—might interact.

  • If sharing, clean your vaporizer to avoid infectious disease.

  • Use caution with edibles because their effects can last longer and be more intense.

  • Don’t inhale too deeply or hold the drawl too long. This can deliver more carbon monoxide to your brain.

Lastly, if you consume too much, don’t panic—you won’t die.

This bud’s for you Ryan! RIP – one love. 

RESOURCES

Click here to watch The Exit Drug, a documentary created by Weedmaps that investigates how cannabis could play a major role in ending the opioid crisis, a public health emergency that kills an average of 130 U.S. citizens a day.

Click here to learn about how to join the battle in removing the stigma associated with the chronic disease of addiction.

Click here to read the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Response to The Heroin and Prescription Opioid Crisis. Medical marijuana is discussed starting on page 44.

Click here to watch a video produced by the Pennsylvania Department of Health demonstrating how to administer naloxone, a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. Naloxone is available at all Pennsylvania pharmacies, and per the standing order issued by Dr. Rachel Levine, no prescription is needed to purchase it.

Myth: Marijuana makes people lazy and unmotivated to exercise

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Have you heard the age-old critique that marijuana leads to laziness? The medical marijuana card-holding runners, bikers, hikers and yogis of Maitri defy this myth every day. And now a new study may support what we’ve seen on our team since day one: marijuana consumers are actually quite motivated.

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder surveyed 605 cannabis users in states with legal adult use (i.e. recreational) marijuana programs to examine the relationship between cannabis consumption and exercise. The study’s findings are pretty fascinating: 81% of respondents who reported consuming cannabis before and/or after exercising averaged 159 minutes of exercise each week. However, respondents who reported no marijuana consumption before and/or after exercising averaged only 103 minutes of weekly exercise.

Additionally, not only did the marijuana consumers report exercising more than the non-consumers each week, but 70% of them also reported enjoying their workouts more because of their consumption. Even more, 77% reported that cannabis enhanced their workout recovery, and over half of co-users agreed or strongly agreed that cannabis increases their motivation to exercise.

For context, consider this: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise weekly for adults, but less than 50% of adults meet this.

So, what does this mean for those of us looking for guidance on how to bolster our fitness programs with marijuana? According to the University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Bonn-Miller, vaping is an ideal route of administration, because of the fast-acting and titratable characteristics of inhalation. Bonn-Miller supports marijuana consumption prior to long, repetitive aerobic exercise, but not with heavy weight-lifting or complicated workouts, because THC can affect coordination and depth perception. Finally, Dr. Bonn-Miller recommends medicating with cannabis products high in CBD soon after exercising for the anti-inflammatory benefits.

Do you incorporate medical marijuana into your fitness regimen? Let us know in the comments!

Let's concentrate on concentrates: here are Maitri's 710 specials

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Happy 710, Maitri family!

If you’re new to the cannabis scene, you may not know about 4/20’s slightly lesser known sister holiday, 7/10. The concept behind the day is delightfully simple: 710 upside down looks like “oil.”

If you’ve been thinking about medicating with concentrates, now is a great time to start: we’ve discounted over 60 quality concentrate products as part of the celebration, and our amazing team of patient advisors and pharmacists are ready to answer questions for any first time concentrate consumers. See you on 7/10!

PITTSBURGH SPECIALS:

Please note prices below are regular retail price—discount will be applied at time of sale.

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UNIONTOWN:

Please note prices below are regular retail price—discount will be applied at time of sale.

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Today is National HIV Testing Day: Do you know your status?

It’s been more than three decades since the first HIV diagnoses were made, yet stigma remains a barrier to addressing HIV in the United States. 

There are so many ways to get tested for HIV—in your home, at a provider’s office, or even with a friend. Today at Maitri Pittsburgh, we’re working to eliminate barriers by offering free home HIV test kits for those seeking to learn their status. Join us in supporting our community to continue normalizing HIV testing and prevention education.

HIV testing is recommended as part of routine health care, but many of us are not following this recommendation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in seven people living with HIV in the U.S. today don’t know their status. Symptoms are not a reliable indication of HIV--many people who test positive can feel and appear healthy.

Type your zip code into the location-based search tool below to search for testing services, housing providers, health centers and other service providers near your current location.

Regardless of your status, if you are looking for more information about including medical marijuana in your treatment plan, we welcome you to contact us for a private consultation with a Maitri pharmacist.

Resources

AIDS Free Pittsburgh

Pennsylvania 211 Directory of HIV Testing and Counseling

Prevention Point Pittsburgh


Myth: All marijuana causes the munchies

Maitri menu items that contain THCV, the appetite suppressing cannabinoid

Maitri menu items that contain THCV, the appetite suppressing cannabinoid

We’ve all heard it before: consuming marijuana leads to excessive eating, also known as “the munchies.”  It’s true that THC, one of the primary chemical compounds in marijuana, can increase appetite. THC activates neurons in the brain that are usually shut down when you are full, causing feelings of hunger. THC also promotes release of a hormone called ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, and of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which regulates enjoyment of eating. But, there’s more to the story. 

In fact, some cannabis strains contain cannabinoids and terpenes that can actually reduce the appetite-inducing effects of THC or even suppress the appetite. Take tetrahydrocannabivarin, or THCV. This cannabinoid can be found in popular sativa-dominant strains like Durban Poison, Jack Herer and Blue Dream, and blocks THC from binding receptors that induce appetite.

Similarly, products higher in CBD can exert a similar effect to THCV, again by blocking THC from binding and stimulating appetite. Strains such as Harlequin, Lemon G, and Blueberry CBD contain significant amounts of CBD, as do a number of capsules, tinctures, and RSOs.

Similarly, terpenes can play a role in appetite suppression. Take humulene, a cannabis terpene also found in hops, sage, ginger, and ginseng. Prominent in strains such as Super Lemon Haze and GG #4, humulene can suppress the brain’s appetite and satiety pathway, reducing desire to eat, and is currently being studied as a weight loss aid.

The kicker? Some studies have found that on average, regular marijuana consumers have lower rates of obesity, smaller waist circumferences, and lesser risk for Type II diabetes than the general population. Though this association does not prove causation, it is an area of interest for further research.

How has cannabis impacted your eating habits? Let us know in the comments!

Further reading:

https://news.yale.edu/2015/02/18/mulling-marijuana-munchies-how-brain-flips-hunger-switch

https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/20/health/why-weed-causes-munchies-food-drayer/index.html

https://www.nature.com/articles/nature14260

https://terpenesandtesting.com/thcv-coveted-appetite-suppressing-cannabinoid/

http://adai.washington.edu/marijuana/factsheets/appetite.htm

Get certified at the Yoga Hive in Pittsburgh on Sunday, June 23

Inside the Yoga Hive’s Penn Avenue studio space.

Inside the Yoga Hive’s Penn Avenue studio space.

We are excited to team up with Kimberly Musial and the Yoga Hive team in Pittsburgh’s Garfield neighborhood to host educational programming and medical marijuana card certification opportunities.

To kick off this partnership, the Yoga Hive will host Maitri pharmacists and the Medical Marijuana Specialists team on Sunday, June 23 from 12:30pm - 4:30pm for education and certifications.

Walk-ins will be accepted, but appointments are encouraged. To schedule your appointment and prepare your medical records, contact Shelly at shelly@mms4relief.com or 833.667.4665

Listening, learning and loving: what PRIDE means to us

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It’s PRIDE month, and we love showing support for the LGBTQ+ community with rainbows galore. Plus, we’re pumped to be tabling at Pittsburgh PrideFest this weekend--stop by our booth in the Mylan Wellness Village on Saturday and Sunday!

But beyond the swag and festivities lies a significant story often overlooked, and perhaps even unknown to many of our younger patients. In fact, the history of the medical marijuana legalization movement is strongly rooted in the LGBTQ+ community, who fought for access to the medicine throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

Many of us remember when news of the AIDS epidemic began to spread in the 1980s and 90s. People were in pain, dying from Wasting Syndrome, and suffering from the side effects of the drugs used to treat it. But LGBTQ+ pioneers like Dennis Peron, Mary Jane “Brownie Mary” Rathbun, and John Entwistle fought for them to access medical marijuana, compassion, and relief from their suffering. Their tireless advocacy culminated in San Francisco’s passage of Proposition P in 1991, followed by Proposition 215 in 1996, making California the first state in the United State to legalize access to medical marijuana.

So what does PRIDE mean to us? The way we see it, inclusion and acceptance are directly connected to our mission towards achieving elevated wellness. We believe cannabis, diversity, PRIDE, and inclusion are critical to and interconnected in the bigger picture of holistic health.

Today, we are honored to continue our journey of listening, learning and loving. Organizations like Prevention Point Pittsburgh, the Positive Health Clinic, Central Outreach Wellness Center and activists like Joey Suarez are fighting for access to healthcare for the LGBTQ+ community, and we are honored to call them our friends and partners.

Happy PRIDE month, Maitri family! Keep sharing your stories with us - we are all on this journey together.


Discounted certifications for veterans available at June 15 Breakfast Buds event

We are pleased to announce that the Medical Marijuana Specialists team will offer discounted certifications to veterans at the next Breakfast Buds event, taking place on Saturday, June 15, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Uniontown Country Club, located at 25 Bailey Lane, Uniontown, PA 15401. The fee will be $100 for new certifications and $75 for renewals.

To make your certification appointment, contact 833.667.4665 or shelly@mms4relief.com

Operation 1620 brings veterans together to enjoy a hot breakfast, receive medical marijuana education from dispensary staff, and build community.

Maitri is proud to be the dispensary sponsor for Operation 1620’s expansion into Pennsylvania.

Click here to register for the June 15 breakfast.

It’s National Women’s Health Week: let's talk about women, pain and medical marijuana

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In honor of National Women’s Health Week, we’re talking all things women and medical marijuana. As a women-owned and operated dispensary and cultivator, we know it’s critical to formulate products, a retail experience, and an approach to patient care that meets the complex healthcare needs of women. We are also cognizant of women in the cannabis space continuing to face social stigmas about their medical marijuana consumption, and remain committed to breaking down these barriers.  

First, let’s talk numbers. According to this report, women currently make up 38 percent of cannabis users, but that is expected to increase to 50 percent by 2022. In fact, the total number of female cannabis consumers grew by 92 percent in 2018.  

What’s bringing women through our dispensary doors? The answer shouldn’t surprise many: chronic pain, often related to endometriosis, fibromyalgia, and even menstrual cramps, among others. Take a look at some of the research our pharmacy team compiled: 

Women’s reproductive organs + the endocannabinoid system

In this comprehensive review of the endocannabinoid system’s role in the female reproductive system, researchers concluded that endocannabinoids play a significant role.  According to the authors, “the endocannabinoid system may represent an important task for researchers dealing with diseases of the female reproductive system characterized by increased invasiveness and proliferation of the endometrium. Among these diseases, endometrial cancer does certainly have a primary role, but also benign pathologies such as endometriosis could benefit from the results of such research. Indeed, the evaluation of chemical compounds acting on the endocannabinoid system will pave the way to develop alternative pharmacological strategies for a disease that, at present, heavily relies on surgical treatments.” 

Endometriosis + medical marijuana 

According to this survey of 484 women between the ages of 18-45 with endometriosis in Australia, cannabis was highly effective in pain reduction. Cannabis, heat, hemp/CBD oil, and dietary changes were the most highly rated in terms of self-reported effectiveness in pain reduction. Physical interventions such as yoga/pilates, stretching, and exercise were rated as being less effective. Authors wrote that “women using cannabis reported the highest self-rated effectiveness.”

Fibromyalgia + medical marijuana

Cannabis rich in THC may be useful in the treatment of fibromyalgia, according to this

experimental placebo-controlled study with three different strains of cannabis. On four different occasions, 20 patients with fibromyalgia received a strain with either 22 mg THC, 13 mg THC and 18 mg CBD, 18 mg CBD, or a placebo. The two strains containing THC caused a significant increase in pressure pain threshold relative to the placebo. CBD inhalation increased THC plasma concentrations but diminished THC-induced analgesic effects, indicative of synergistic pharmacokinetic but antagonistic pharmacodynamic interactions of THC and CBD. Authors wrote that this “experimental trial shows the complex behavior of inhaled cannabinoids in chronic pain patients with just small analgesic responses after a single inhalation.”

In another observational cross-over study with 31 patients suffering from fibromyalgia and lower back pain, a treatment with marijuana had a beneficial effect. The patients were screened, treated with three months of standardised analgesic therapy with opioids and duloxetine. Following three months of this therapy, the patients could opt for additional use of cannabis and were treated for a minimum of six months with cannabis.

While standard treatment led to minor improvements as compared with baseline status, the addition of marijuana allowed a significantly higher improvement in all outcomes at three months after initiation of cannabis treatment and the improvement was maintained at six months. Authors concluded that their study demonstrates an advantage of medical marijuana in fibromyalgia patients with low back pain as compared to standard treatment.

Menstrual cramps + medical marijuana

In this study of myometrium tissue from 78 women, researchers found that the severity of dysmenorrhoea (menstrual cramps) were associated with the level of CB1 receptors in women’s endocannabinoid systems. Authors wrote that these “data suggest that cannabinoid receptor CB1 may be involved in the pathogenesis of dysmenorrhea in adenomyosis and may be a potential therapeutic target.”

In layperson’s terms, this means that the endocannabinoid system’s role in women’s reproductive health and fertility is significant and merits further investigation.

Chronic pain in women + medical marijuana

Medical marijuana was rated the most effective alternative treatment for relieving chronic pain, according to the results of a survey of over 2,400 women in chronic pain. Given a choice of 11 different alternative therapies, many women said they had tried several treatments in the past year. While cannabis was one of the least used alternative therapies, it quickly rose to the top when women were asked about the effectiveness of treatments they had tried. Nearly 80 per cent of the 431 women who used cannabis said it helped relieve their pain.

Marijuana Listening Tour to visit Allegheny County on Saturday, May 11

Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman at the Maitri Medicinals grand opening in East Liberty. Photo by Matt Dayak.

As part of his statewide listening tour, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman will make two stops in Allegheny County this Saturday, May 11. See times and locations below.

The Lieutenant Governor has visited over 50 of the state’s 67 counties to gather feedback on the possibility of an adult use marijuana program in Pennsylvania. His office has documented over 35,000 responses from Pennsylvania citizens.

Those who cannot attend in person are encouraged to submit feedback online here.

Allegheny County -- Central
Saturday, May 11
1:00 - 2:30 p.m.
Community Empowerment Association
7120 Kelly Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15208

Allegheny County -- South
Saturday, May 11
4:00 - 5:30 p.m.
Penn State Greater Allegheny
Wunderly Gymnasium
4000 University Drive
McKeesport, PA 15132

Birds of a Feather: A Maitri Patient Appreciation Celebration on April 20

Join us for an all day celebration of our patients • Food • Drinks • Free certifications for veterans • Education • Community • 4/20 menu to be announced later this week.

In Pittsburgh, the following food trucks will offer discounts for Maitri patients outside our dispensary at 5845 Centre Avenue:

In Uniontown, BeeYou Cafe and the Yoga Garden have teamed up to offer free massages and discounted food and beverages for Maitri patients:

  • Free chair massages for patients at Maitri’s Uniontown dispensary, 27 West Main Street, courtesy of the Yoga Garden

  • Gourmet pasta bar by Justin Renne at the BeeYou Cafe, 39 West Main Street

  • The Green Green Juice: Spinach, cucumbers, celery, apple and lemon at BeeYou Cafe

  • The Highly Caramelized Latte: Caramel latte with caramel whipped cream and caramel drizzle at Bee You Cafe

  • MariMatcha: A sweet vanilla matcha latte at BeeYou Cafe

Operation 1620 Breakfast Buds Pennsylvania Kick Off: Breakfast and Free Medical Marijuana Card Certifications for Veterans:

  • 9 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Operation 1620’s Breakfast Buds program brings veterans together to enjoy a hot breakfast, receive education from dispensary staff on medical marijuana products and dosing, and visit a dispensary. Click here to RSVP for the breakfast.

  • Hosted at Ascender, 6401 Penn Avenue, Suite 300 (less than one mile away from Maitri’s Pittsburgh dispensary). Ascender is handicap accessible and has plenty of parking.

  • Breakfast catered by Kate Romane of Black Radish Kitchen

  • Medical marijuana product and dosing questions and answers session, led by Maitri Director of Pharmacy, Terri Kroh

  • Dr. Metcalf of Medical Marijuana Specialists will certify veterans with qualifying conditions for their medical marijuana card, free of charge. Please call 1.833.667.4665 or email kayla@mms4relief.com to make your appointment.

Visit Maitri at Cannabis Education Day at the Millvale Community Library:

  • 12 p.m. - 1 p.m. Maitri Pharmacist Annie Conner will do a Medical Marijuana 101 presentation for community members

  • This event is free and hosted by the Millvale Community Library at 213 Grant Avenue in Millvale. Learn more by clicking here.

  • If you can’t make the event, check out the live stream on Facebook at www.facebook.com/millvalelibrary

Maitri partners with national veterans’ group to launch Pennsylvania chapter

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4/8/19 UPDATE: Dr. Metcalf and Nurse Shelley of Medical Marijuana Specialists have generously agreed to provide FREE medical marijuana card certifications for veterans who bring documentation of qualifying conditions to the breakfast event at Ascender. They will be on-site at Ascender, located at 6401 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206 from 9am - 12:30 pm. Veterans interested in getting certified at this event should call 1.833.667.4665 or email kayla@mms4relief.com

Maitri is thrilled to announce a new partnership with Operation 1620, which will kick off in Pittsburgh on Saturday, April 20.

Operation 1620 brings awareness, education and support for veterans medicating with cannabis as an alternative to pharmaceuticals. Founded in Chicago in 2016 and now operating in seven states across the US, these veterans come together to create life-long relationships with like-minded peers, an experience they often lose upon leaving the service.

Operation 1620’s Breakfast Buds program brings veterans together to enjoy a hot breakfast, receive education from dispensary staff on medical marijuana products and dosing, and visit a dispensary.

“We are thankful for the support that the Maitri family is sharing with our organization and look forward to making a positive impact in the community,” said Caleb Masoner, Operation 1620’s Executive Director. “Our Breakfast Buds program is designed to bring veterans and their families together to build relationships and share experiences, things like successes and challenges. This partnership with Maitri will help facilitate healing for veterans statewide while driving connection in our digital community between events.”

The April 20 Breakfast Buds event will be the program’s debut event in Pennsylvania. Maitri’s pharmacy team will lead an educational question and answer session in a safe, private space, empowering veterans to gain the knowledge they need as they embark on their medical marijuana journey towards health and wellness.

“Getting to know our patients in Uniontown and Pittsburgh has reaffirmed for us how cannabis brings together people from across all life experiences. We’ve seen medical marijuana provide hope for so many of our veterans, and are honored to partner with Operation 1620 and give back to this key part of the Maitri community,” said Corinne Ogrodnik, Maitri CEO and Cofounder.

The April 20th kick-off breakfast will take place at 9 a.m. at Ascender, located less than a mile from Maitri’s East Liberty Dispensary at 6401 Penn Avenue, Suite 300, Pittsburgh, PA 15206, and will be catered by Black Radish Kitchen. The building is handicap accessible and has plenty of parking available in the lot.

RSVPs are strongly encouraged - click here to register.

Epilepsy Awareness: Seizure First Aid 101

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Across the world, families and communities celebrate March 26 as Purple Day, an international grassroots effort dedicated to increasing awareness about epilepsy.

At Maitri, we’ve been privileged to learn about this common neurological condition from some of the very people whose hard work and advocacy led to the legalization of a medical marijuana program here in Pennsylvania. Scroll down for links with more information about the effects of medical marijuana on patients with epilepsy.

It is currently estimated that 1 in every 100 people worldwide have epilepsy. In fact, epilepsy is one of the most common chronic neurological disorders. Do you know how to respond if someone in your life were to have a seizure?

For most seizures, basic seizure first aid is all that is needed. The steps are simple, and anyone can do them. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, the key words to remember are Stay, Safe, and Side:

  1. STAY with the person and start timing the seizure.

  2. Keep the person SAFE by guiding them away from harmful or sharp objects, and asking others to clear the space around the person seizing.

  3. Turn the person onto their SIDE if they are not awake and aware.

Additionally, it is important to note you should never try restraining someone who is having a seizure, or try to put anything in their mouth.

Further reading and links to studies

Living with Multiple Sclerosis: Deanna’s story

Photo by Matt Dayak

Photo by Matt Dayak

March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. The latest research reveals that nearly 1 million people are living with MS in the U.S. In Pennsylvania, MS is one of 21 conditions that qualifies patients for medical marijuana.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society “supports the rights of people with MS to work with their MS health care providers to access marijuana for medical purposes in accordance with legal regulations in those states where such use has been approved. In addition, the Society supports advancing research to better understand the benefits and potential risks of marijuana and its derivatives as a treatment for MS.”

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an immune-mediated disease where the immune system mistakenly perceives myelin, which is the protective sheath around nerve fibers in the central nervous system, as an intruder and attacks it. Overtime, repeated episodes of this inflammation cause scar tissue to develop around the nerve cells, which results in slower, or blocked, nerve functioning. Human functions and processes such as vision, speech, walking, writing, and memory, can all be impacted by this breakdown, though symptoms manifest differently from patient to patient.

In recognition of MS Awareness Month, we are honored to support the work of our local chapter of the National MS Society, and to help raise awareness by highlighting one of our own team members. Deanna was diagnosed with MS in 2016, and has bravely shared her story with us below.

Tell us about how you got from diagnosis to becoming a patient in the PA program:

“I actually had never consumed cannabis before I got this diagnosis. But as soon as I heard Pennsylvania was legalizing a medical program, I registered, because I wanted to be sure to try every possible thing that was available to help me. Cannabis is part of a larger, holistic plan for me which includes Tecfidera, which is an immune modulator, as well as meditation, diet, and sleep.

The thing about MS is most of the traditional pharmaceuticals that are available in the US are immune modulators, but there really aren’t a ton of treatment options for symptom management. There are some pharmaceuticals like Sativex that have been approved in other countries, but from what I’ve found, medical marijuana is one of the best options for symptom management available in the US right now.” 

What’s working for you so far?

“I’m still on my cannabis learning journey figuring out which strains are best for me. I started out with Indica strains but have actually found that Sativas seem to work better for me, especially for my depression.

I’ve found that I like vape cartridges the best. Because of my spasticity issues, titrating with tinctures just didn’t work well for me. I like Raspberry Cough as a general once a day vape in the morning to help me get going. I also like the Strawberry Fields and Mowie Wowie cartridges. I haven’t tried Harlequin yet, but it’s a big one in the MS community.” 

It’s great to hear medical marijuana is working for you. What makes you want to recommend it to others living with MS?

“I love the control and flexibility I have with medical marijuana, because MS is one of those diseases that really varies in terms of how it affects people. It’s nice to have a remedy where I can control the strains I try and dosages I administer, because there is no predictability of which symptoms will face me at different times.

This disease is just so unpredictable. You never know when an exacerbation will happen. You never know what days you may be challenged with mobility, or have these random cognitive issues where you can’t think clearly. The cognitive issues can be horrible - sometimes I just can’t find the right words to use in a totally basic conversation.

Just as everyone’s MS experience is unique, so is medicating with medical marijuana. There are so many strains that affect all of us differently.”

What’s been your biggest win since starting medical marijuana?

“The most significant thing for me has been being able to wean completely off of Zoloft, the SSRI I was on for my depression. Depression is one of the most common symptoms affecting MS patients. Some studies show that it’s even more frequent among people with MS than it is in the general population or with many other chronic illnesses.”

 I know you’re an avid researcher. What’s struck you most the more you read about MS? 

“There are so many interesting things. For many years, research showed that a lot of the people diagnosed with MS are middle aged, Caucasian women. But more recent research indicates there are possibly up to twice as many people in the US living with MS than previous studies indicated. So, the demographics of who is affected by the disease may be more diverse than previously believed.

What’s also interesting is a lot of people who have MS live in more northern latitudes, so there is some belief in the research community that environmental factors could be a contributing factor to root cause. Because of this, a lot of us in the MS community regularly take Vitamin D. Pittsburgh is actually a hot spot for MS, and considering how little sunlight we see here compared to other US cities, it’s another thing that, to me, points towards there being environmental influences on the disease.” 

What’s been your biggest challenge since being diagnosed?

“The unknown is the worst part. It’s scary to think that I don’t know what the future of this disease is, that I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t know if I will develop worse cognitive or physical challenges. There is no natural progression with MS that researchers have identified.  

The other thing is that MS is considered an invisible illness. Sometimes when I’m out in public dealing with day-to-day stuff, I wish I could just tell the person at the grocery store or wherever I am that I’m struggling because of this disease.  It’s a reminder to treat others with kindness because you have no idea what they are privately dealing with in their lives.”  

Is there anything you want to add?

“If there is one thing I’d say in closing, it’s just that we are so fortunate in Pennsylvania to have a medical marijuana program and access to this medicine. It’s helping so many of us dealing with this disease and many others.”

Lastly, a word from our Pharmacist:

“There’s a large body of international research and anecdotal reports coming from the clinical trials that were done on Sativex that informed Maitri’s development of a customized dosing and titration regimen specific to patients with MS,” said Terri Kroh, Maitri’s Director of Pharmacy.

Further reading and research on multiple sclerosis and marijuana

●      A 2012 study by the MUSEC group demonstrated the superiority of cannabis extract over placebo in the treatment of muscle stiffness in MS.  Adverse events in participants treated with CE were consistent with the known side effects of cannabinoids. No new safety concerns were observed.

●      A 2018 study concluded that THC:CBD oromucosal spray provided better and clinically relevant improvement of resistant MS spasticity compared with adjusting first-line antispasticity medication alone.

●      The National MS Society prepared this 2017 Cannabis summary which includes additional research and key points relevant to MS and cannabis

New study reveals therapeutic benefits of THC

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A new study out of the University of New Mexico has created a buzz around the wide range of medicinal benefits THC may offer marijuana consumers. The study was published last month in the journal Scientific Reports, and can be read in its entirety here.

The researchers reviewed 20,000 user sessions and 27 symptom categories entered into the popular app, ReLeaf, the largest database of the effects of marijuana in the U.S.

“Despite the conventional wisdom, both in the popular press and much of the scientific community, that only CBD has medical benefits while THC merely makes one high, our results suggest that THC may be more important than CBD in generating therapeutic benefits. In our study, CBD appears to have little effect at all, while THC generates measurable improvements in symptom relief. These findings justify the immediate de-scheduling of all types of cannabis, in addition to hemp, so that cannabis with THC can be more widely accessible for pharmaceutical use by the general public.” — Jacob Miguel Vigil, study co-author, via EurekAlert

The study also revealed that dried flower was the most commonly used marijuana product, and generally associated with greater symptom relief than other types of cannabis products.

Read the full study

On Black Balloon Day, Maitri remembers those lost to opioid overdose

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Black Balloon Day is a national day of remembrance of not only those lost to the disease of addiction, but the friends and family of the loved ones left behind. The event was originally organized by Diane and Lauren Hurley in remembrance of Greg Tremblay, a father of four and brother-in-law of Lauren, who died of a drug overdose at 38 years of age on March 6, 2015

Maitri is joining communities across the nation to publicly display black balloons outside of our dispensaries. The balloons are a sign that an individual or community have been affected by drug addiction or an overdose death. The balloons also symbolize that “we are all in this together,” while generating greater awareness of the opioid and heroin epidemic. The Maitri team is no stranger to this issue, having lost many of our own friends and loved ones to the crisis.

At Maitri, we hear stories every day from patients who are weaning off opioids with the help of medical marijuana. Contrary to the popular misperception that cannabis is a gateway drug, we see it acting as an exit drug for many patients of all ages and backgrounds. Below is a list of links with more information about the epidemic, and some studies that point to cannabis as an effective treatment option for those struggling with addiction.

Further reading and links to studies

Click here to read the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Response to The Heroin and Prescription Opioid Crisis. Medical marijuana is discussed starting on page 44.

Click here to read Pennsylvania House Resolution 90 declaring March, 6, 2019 Black Balloon Day.

Click here to watch a video produced by the Pennsylvania Department of Health demonstrating how to administer naloxone, a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. Naloxone is available at all Pennsylvania pharmacies, and per the standing order issued by Dr. Rachel Levine, no prescription is needed to purchase it.

Click here to read the 2010 study by Marcus A. Bachhuber, MD; Brendan Saloner, PhD; Chinazo O. Cunningham, MD, MS; Colleen L. Barry, PhD, MPP that showed states with medical marijuana laws had a 24.8 percent lower average annual opioid overdose death rate compared to states without such laws.

Click here to read about the trio of recent studies that bolster the argument that legal marijuana can help combat the opioid epidemic.

Click here to watch The Exit Drug, a documentary created by Weedmaps that investigates how cannabis could play a major role in ending the opioid crisis, a public health emergency that kills an average of 115 U.S. citizens a day.

Click here to learn about how to join the battle in removing the stigma associated with the chronic disease of addiction.