Taking a Look inside Compassion Center as Medical Marijuana Disp - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Taking a Look inside Compassion Center as Medical Marijuana Dispensary Prepares to Open in Del.

WILMINGTON, Del. (WBOC) - Four years after state lawmakers legalized medical marijuana in Delaware the First State's first dispensary is set to open next week in Wilmington.

People who have gone through the state's significant medical qualification process will have access to the drug there starting June 26. Monday media had the opportunity to check out the facility.

The First State Compassion Center is an nondescript building in an industrial park, and it is the only dispensary in the state. Cardholders will have to go to it for the drug whether they live a two minutes away in Wilmington or two hours away in Delmar or Fenwick.

The original medical marijuana law the Delaware General Assembly passed requires one compassion center in each county. But for now there's just the one in New Castle County.

"The patient demographics mirror the population demographics in the state," said Joel Allcock, senior vice president of First State Compassion Center. "I think roughly two-thirds of the patient population of Delaware is located in New Castle County."

Allcock acknowledges that makes things difficult for people in lower Delaware. State health officials tell WBOC a year from now the state will decide if another center should open. That decision will be based on demand and the geography of that demand.

The part of the 47,000 sq. ft. facility media saw Monday looks like a doctor's office, and it will run like a deli.

"You'll take a number," said Allcock. "There will be a sign telling you 'Now Serving Patient 5.' And you'll come up to the counter and speak with your patient advocate."

It will also run like a pharmacy.

"The patient will come, purchase their medicine and then go home to use it,"Allcock said.

The grow operation is in the building. Regulations allow for 150 plants and 1,500 oz. in inventory. Obviously that requires a lot of security.

"We're here to protect our employees and our patients, too, from any type of theft or other kind of incidents," said Mark Lally, president of First State Compassion Center.

The cost of marijuana at the facility will vary depending on strain and ingestion option.

But keeping cost low is important. Allcock says nearly half of medical marijuana cardholders in Delaware are on disability or considered low-income.

There are patient orientation events at the center this Thursday and Friday. Head to the facility's Facebook page for more information.

Right now, according to state figures, there are about 330 registered medical marijuana cardholders in Delaware with 80 or 90 more in process. Officials expect that number will grow even more once the compassion center opens.

Another thing that will likely increase the number is the expected signing of Rylie's Law. That bill passed the state House last week and is headed to Gov. Jack Markell's desk. It allows doctors to certify the use of marijuana-based oils to treats children suffering from intractable epilepsy.

That law is named after 9-year old Rylie Maedler of Rehoboth Beach. She, and 12-year old Kenedy Welch of Long Neck, are no strangers to pain and hardship.

Kenedy carries scars throughout her body, a painful reminder of her surgeries to her brain, spine, and stomach. She struggles with autism, and other rare conditions that give her nearly constant, chronic pain. She also falls victim to seizures nearly every single day.

"I have pain in my neck when I put my head down," Welch said as she pointed to a scar on her neck.

Maedler too has seizures regularly, and is also fighting a tumor on her jaw. Both Maedler and Welch mothers told WBOC that they would be treating their children with medicinal marijuana, once the center opened up. And they are more than willing to go to up to Wilmington to get it for their kids.

"I want to start using it," Rylie said. "So I could have no more seizures. And no more of being scared of having seizures when I'm in public."

Rylie's mother, Janie said the decision was a "no-brainer," considering her daughter's condition. The oil she would use, has very little THC, the compound which gets people high. However, it does include CBD, which is referred to as an "anti-tumor compound."

Maedler said she is hopeful this treatment could keep the tumor from re-surfacing.

"This has become our way of life," she said. "And I'm just looking forward to her becoming a normal child."

Kenedy's mother Dawn Welch said that it has been difficult watching her daughter suffer with the chronic pain every day. She said she is hopeful this treatment would help turn things around for her family.

"I just want to see her live a day without seizures," said said. "A day without pain. And that's my wish."

WBOC Sussex County Bureau Chief Evan Koslof contributed to this report.

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