Cannabis growers talk medical benefits with seniors in advance of launching local dispensary, cultivation site

  • Dr. William Troutt, standing center, of Arizona cannabis company Harvest Inc., listens to a question from the public during a meet-and-greet at the South County Senior Center on Wednesday. Marc Ross, Harvest’s director of community outreach, stands off to the right. Staff Photo/Domenic Poli

Staff Writer
Published: 12/20/2019 6:21:15 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Employees of an Arizona cannabis company interested in setting up shop in the area held a meet-and-greet at the South County Senior Center on Wednesday to answer questions about how a particular plant can relieve some of the pains and conditions that come with age.

Representatives from Harvest Inc. were working to build support for its license to manufacture adjacent to a cultivation facility the company is now awaiting final state-level approval for. Harvest would operate in Massachusetts as Suns Mass, a subsidiary of Harvest.

The plan is for Suns Mass to lease from GOGRIZ, LLC a 114,000-square-foot greenhouse and two houses at 198 Mill Village Road that it purchased from Pioneer Gardens owners Arjen Vriend and Jaap Molenaar earlier this year. The $3 million transaction also involved parcels of agricultural land that are expected to be leased back to Pioneer Gardens for agricultural use. Pioneer Gardens sells perennial starter plants to wholesale nurseries.

Roughly 20 people attended Wednesday’s event to learn more about cannabis and the company’s intentions.

Someone asked why marijuana can cause a rapid heart rate and Dr. William Troutt, Harvest’s director of medical education, explained that is a result of the plant’s psychoactive properties. He said that’s why dosing — starting with small, conservative doses — is vital. Troutt mentioned cannabis can increase heart rate, but it also lowers blood pressure, and he knows many people who have reduced or eliminated their use of hypertension medication by using cannabis.

Sunderland resident Deb Wolfram mentioned she has osteoarthritis and Troutt said cannabis can be used only to help manage pain caused by the joint disease, which he said is a result of years of wear and tear. However, rheumatoid arthritis, Troutt said, is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue, and cannabis can be effective in relieving inflammation.

Troutt also said cannabis can provide relief for people dealing with severe and chronic pain as well as nausea and vomiting that come with chemotherapy. He said he is careful to not get up anyone’s hopes by implying cannabis can combat cancer, but it has anti-cancer properties and many cancer patients use it to stimulate their appetite during nauseating treatments.

He said more human clinical studies are needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks of using cannabis with specific medical conditions. He said patients should use cannabis under the management of a qualified licensed medical professional because it may be harmful to people with certain medical conditions and may interact with some medications. Troutt said patients should make changes to their medications only under the direction of the prescribing physician.

One of the attendees mentioned how veterans have benefited from cannabidiol (CBD) oil, which is extracted from the buds of hemp plants that look identical to marijuana but have lower concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), eliminating any psychoactive effects.

“As you can imagine, the veteran community is highly politically engaged,” responded Marc Ross, Harvest’s director of community outreach. “And, so, there are a number of pro-cannabis veterans’ groups right now on (Capitol Hill) trying to get (the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) to start to recognize cannabis as a lawful medicine that veterans should be entitled to. And, secondly, companies like ours offer huge discounts for veterans.”

Ross said a lot of CBD oil is highly unregulated, but people can take solace in the fact that any CBD or THC sold in a dispensary has been thoroughly tested. Ross later told the Greenfield Recorder the senior citizens in attendance were “cannabis curious.”

“We’re fighting an 80-year War on Drugs, this misconception of what this plant is and what this plant isn’t,” he said.

Troutt told the Greenfield Recorder that senior citizens’ attitudes toward cannabis have shifted greatly in recent years. He said older people are increasingly looking for alternatives to conventional medicines and the side effects they carry.

“And it’s turning out that many of them have great reports when they start using cannabis and that it’s really helped with their quality of life,” Troutt said.

Ali B. Kirkpatrick, Harvest’s government affairs specialist, said the company has a cultivation license from the state and a community host agreement with Deerfield. He said the town will receive 2 percent of annual gross wholesale receipts every year for five years. This could equate to $2 million, paid quarterly. Ross said this would be in addition to tax revenue and philanthropic giving.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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