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Aug 3, 2018 10:51 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Medical Marijuana Becoming New Norm For Treating Severe Illnesses

Columbia Care medical marijuana dispensary in Riverhead.  DANA SHAW
Aug 7, 2018 1:39 PM

More and more residents on the East End are saying no to heavy painkillers and prescription medications and, instead, opting for organically grown cannabis to relieve everything from chronic pain and anxiety to the side effects of brain cancer and epilepsy.

Experts say that medical marijuana, although it still comes with a bit of a stigma, is saving lives across the state and the county. With more than 62,000 New Yorkers approved for medical marijuana as of early July, the State Department of Health just last month recommended the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in New York.

“Everybody’s 90- to 100-percent better—and that’s not just my patients, that’s everywhere. So if you’re not at least 90-percent better on medical marijuana, you’re not on the right dose,” said Elizabeth Cramer-Ernst, a nurse practitioner and the founder of Hamptons Medi Spa, a tele-medicine facility based in Hampton Bays that certifies eligible patients for medical marijuana treatments.

The large majority of her 3,000 patients across the state suffer from chronic pain, a condition that she says encompasses a wide range of diseases and medical abnormalities. Her patients, hundreds of whom live on the East End, range from infants to seniors, and include Holocaust survivors, veterans, burn victims, cancer patients, car accident survivors, 9/11 responders, rape victims, people who suffer from seizures, and patients with orphan diseases, conditions that are rare and hard to treat.

According to Ms. Cramer-Ernst, who began certifying patients for cannabis treatments in 2016, all of her patients have had positive results, and many of them have stopped taking prescription-grade painkillers, steroids, and stomach, mood, sleep and anti-inflammatory medications.

With new talk at the state level of legalizing marijuana for recreational use, said she expects the market to continue growing within the coming months and years.

“It’s about to be a very robust market in New York,” said Ms. Cramer-Ernst, who previously worked at East End Pediatrics in East Hampton for 20 years. “The state has approved four more dispensaries on Long Island, so we really expect to see the prices come down significantly over the next few weeks and months because of the competition.”

Columbia Care, in Riverhead, is currently the only Suffolk County-based dispensary, or pharmacy, where a certified patient can buy cannabis products.

Patients currently pay anywhere from $30 to $50 each time they refill a prescription, which is typically every two weeks. Prices can be higher or lower depending on the specific product, according to Nicholas Vita, the vice chairman and chief executive officer of Columbia Care, the first and largest medical marijuana health care company to operate dispensaries across the United States.

Medical marijuana is not yet covered by insurance companies, so all expenses are paid out of pocket, in cash, though the Riverhead dispensary does offer payment plans for those in need.

Mr. Vita pointed to federal regulations and a lack of information, as, he said, not enough studies have been on the use of cannabis for medicine, as reasons for the gap in health care coverage.

“Up until New York’s program, no one really mandated high-quality, pharmaceutical grade cannabis products,” Mr. Vita explained.

New York’s medical marijuana program first launched in 2016. Since then, it has grown to include a number of chronic conditions—including cancer, AIDS, chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy and more—that make a patient eligible for cannabis products. Just a few weeks ago, the State Health Department also approved the use of medical marijuana for any condition in which an opioid could be prescribed.

The marijuana used in the products includes liquids and oils for vaporization, oral capsules, topicals, ointments, patches, lozenges and ground plant material. It is organically grown and tested for impurities like bacteria and mold.

Unlike other states, New York, one of 30 states with legal medical marijuana programs, mandates that certified practitioners or pharmacists specifically dose their patients, meaning that the exact amount of cannabinoids, or compounds of the marijuana plant, going into the cannabis products needs to be specifically noted.

Products are “precisely manufactured,” allowing doctors to dose patients, “taking into consideration age, race and demographic,” Mr. Vita explained.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and Cannabidiol, or CBD, are two of the main cannabinoids used to medicate patients. CDB, which is also found in hemp, is calming and anti-inflammatory, while THC is uplifting and pain-relieving.

“What we have found is that different combinations of cannabinoids are better suited for different illnesses,” Mr. Vita said. “CBD is the primary ingredient used to treat epilepsy, while THC has a number of pain management attributes and helps to increase appetite, so it’s used to treat cancer patients who are in an enormous amount of pain.”

According to Ms. Cramer-Ernst, the THC in the products includes a mix of strains found in indica and sativa, two types of cannabis plants, to help keep patients in a neutral state of mind, as indica typically makes people mellow, while sativa is normally stimulating.

She noted that recreational users typically inhale upward of 300 mg of THC when smoking marijuana, but patients on medical marijuana usually receive less than 5 mg per dose, which is the usual amount necessary to reduce pain.

The THC and CBD help reduce pain, regulate mood, improve mobility and even shrink tumors, by targeting the receptors in the brain, spinal column, neurological system and intestines.

“As far as I’m concerned, it should be in the water,” Ms. Cramer-Ernst said. “I mean, it just helps so many people with such a variety of things. But, truly, you have to get the dosing correct.”

Certified practitioners, who go through a state-mandated certification course, are required by the state to note the specific brand and form of cannabis, the administration method and any limitations regarding use when certifying a patient for medical marijuana. On the South Fork, there are about a dozen certified practitioners registered on the State Department of Health website.

After being certified by one of the eligible practitioners, patients receive a state medical marijuana card, which allows them to visit dispensaries and pick up their prescriptions. Each card expires after one year, but can be renewed if necessary.

Mr. Cramer-Ernst noted that patients with treatable conditions may medicate with cannabis products for only a few months, or until they’re feeling better, but patients with more permanent conditions could stay on medical marijuana for the rest of their lives.

“The interest among patients of all types in these products is staggering, and for the right reasons,” Mr. Vita said. “There are so many unmet medical needs where the standard of care needs a complement or needs to be improved.”

Mr. Vita also added that many people who use recreational marijuana are often self-medicating.

“A lot of people who use cannabis are using it for medical purposes,” he explained. “It’s a mistake to try to segregate medical use from adult use.”

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Sure being high stops pain especially chronic pain which causes opioid addiction. I'm all for people living pain free, but to say THC shrinks tumors is total BS. We need to stay on track to get marijuana legalized for pain, but to say it's a cure all is disingenuous and false hope.
By chief1 (2770), southampton on Aug 5, 18 3:43 PM
The CBD oil does not cause one to get high
By toes in the water (881), southampton on Aug 5, 18 7:08 PM
Correct, but the THC does, which is contained in most of the products sold by the dispensaries. The cannabis oil cartridges they sell are the same ones sold for recreational use. Pro-cannabis legalization people should realize their constant use of lies, deception, and sketchy science do nothing but reinforce the impression that people like you will say anything to justify your desire, just like a drug addict. Legalization can be justified for the same reasons legal access to alcohol is justified. ...more
By MoronEliminator (215), Montauk on Aug 6, 18 9:40 AM
Hi Moron. There is such a thing as CBD-only extracts. They are currently legal in all 50 states.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (7694), HAMPTON BAYS on Aug 6, 18 9:55 AM
2 members liked this comment
Totally ignorant post Moron.

There are over one hundred known cannabinoids. They are contained in not only cannabis, but other plant species such as cocoa, black pepper, human breast milk, and even black truffles.

Can't imagine why chocolate truffles are so awesome....
By Mr. Z (11564), North Sea on Aug 7, 18 6:43 PM
I've taken CBD oil maybe high isn't a good word for it. I will tell you one thing I was too sedated to drive, but definitely not a stoned feeling. Maybe change the name from medical marijuana to something else
By chief1 (2770), southampton on Aug 5, 18 7:20 PM
cbd can't get you high so you're confused anyway
By BrianWilliams (87), on Aug 5, 18 8:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
Their products aren't limited to CBD only, so go back to your pipe and stop spreading misinformation. You can get high just as easily with a dispensary product as a purchased from a drug dealer.
By MoronEliminator (215), Montauk on Aug 6, 18 9:41 AM
Hi Moron ( sry but gotta follow Fore on that one LOL ) You didn’t get high from the CBD ! Fore is correct. Brian is correct . I am too. It is you my dear who needs to lay down the pipe an stop spreading misinformation. CBD oil is completely legal. It’s helping a lot of people, they aren’t getting high and you can buy it right here in the Hamptons.
By toes in the water (881), southampton on Aug 6, 18 6:41 PM
2 members liked this comment
There's a lot of disinformation about cannabis and it's up to the industry and its stakeholders to educate the public at-large after decades of the drug war and corresponding propaganda.

BTW Chief, that's the preferred nomenclature in the industry: cannabis!
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (7694), HAMPTON BAYS on Aug 6, 18 7:02 PM
It absolutely terrifying to hear a purported medical professional claim that “everybody’s 90- to 100-percent better“ just by smoking pot. No they’re not better, and their illness is not being treated. They are just too high to care anymore. Plus we get the added bonus of hundreds of people stoned out of their minds driving around on our roads thinking it’s totally ok because it's ”medical”.
By localEH (426), East Hampton on Aug 5, 18 8:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Stoned people drive slower. Lol! I’d rather be on the roads with pot heads rather than a bunch of crazed drivers with road rage who are late for work , only drive vehicles on the weekends or just left their lunch date after a few glasses of wine...

By toes in the water (881), southampton on Aug 6, 18 6:48 PM
1 member liked this comment
Putting aside personal views on the effects of cannabis on driving ability, it is already and will continue to be illegal. The question of how to adequately test drivers remains open...a cheek swab will be able to detect recent use, provided the user didn't use mouthwash at some point. I have also heard of smelling the suspects fingers for burnt marijuana as evidence that they were recently holding a burning doobie, but that doesn't provide conclusive evidence of intoxication.

All other ...more
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (7694), HAMPTON BAYS on Aug 6, 18 7:13 PM
localEH's reading comprehension needs to be "treated"
By johnj (1017), Westhampton on Aug 7, 18 5:00 PM
Ms Ernst is qualified how??? Dr. PA or licensed nurse???
By knitter (1865), Southampton on Aug 7, 18 1:13 PM
By allenfein (66), Southampton on Aug 7, 18 4:02 PM
By allenfein (66), Southampton on Aug 7, 18 4:02 PM
By allenfein (66), Southampton on Aug 7, 18 4:02 PM
Medical marijuana is no panacea. It does help significantly about 50% of my certified patients over the past two years since I did the rather shallow and time wasting government required online training. My patients spend usually $100 to $200 per month and get excellent advice from the dispensary staff. More would be helped, but for many the increased intake makes the cost prohibitive. Insurance companies refuse to pay for medical marijuana, using the excuse that it is Federally illegal to use marijuana, ...more
By allenfein (66), Southampton on Aug 7, 18 4:23 PM
Other feedback from patients: They do not report getting “high” from the low doses of THC contained in the medical marijuana. The THC works well with CBD. One can purchase these two in different ratios of 20 to 1, 1 to 20, and 1 to 1. The patients have options of under the tongue elixers, tablets and inhaler.
By allenfein (66), Southampton on Aug 7, 18 4:44 PM
2 members liked this comment
Marijuana is a dirty word popularized by one of the most bigoted men of the 20th century.

The proper term is cannabis.
By Mr. Z (11564), North Sea on Aug 7, 18 6:37 PM
Medical Cannabis is legal because it is not impairing.
By EMCE (1), Hampton Bays on Aug 7, 18 8:37 PM
2 members liked this comment
You can get medical marijuana in Eastport at First Choice Medical.
By susgeek (41), Speonk on Aug 8, 18 1:26 PM
You can get CBD oil here.... Open Minded Organics.
By toes in the water (881), southampton on Aug 13, 18 7:35 AM
Recreational NOW!
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Aug 8, 18 2:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Marijuana causes reefer madness! Most people who consume canabis end up insane and addicted to hard drugs ; )
By Aeshtron (393), Southampton on Aug 13, 18 4:10 PM