December 20, 2014
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Summit readies plan to open compassion center

The attorney representing the Summit Medical Compassion Center expects the company to apply to the Department of Health to open a Warwick facility for the sale of medical marijuana within two weeks.

Meanwhile, Mayor Scott Avedisian, who voiced concerns last year over internal strife on the Summit board, said yesterday he would reserve comment until he’s had the chance to review the latest application.

The attorney, Terrence Fracassa, said Tuesday he hopes to finalize leases for a distribution center and a facility where the plants would be grown this week. The center would have to revise its application with the state to reflect a change in location and gain approval before opening.

When Summit was selected as one of three companies to submit proposals for a center in the state more than three years ago, it planned to operate from the Kent Center on Post Road in Greenwood. That plan called for a considerably larger operation, with plants grown in a unit at the Airport Business Center on Strawberry Field Road.

Summit is now looking to operate a dispensary from a unit at 380 Jefferson Boulevard with a facility for growing the marijuana at a nearby building on Illinois Avenue.

According to a summary of plans provided by Fracassa, and attributed to Summit president Armand Spaziano, the center now expects to service 1,000 patients by the end of the first year, or about a quarter of what was projected in its initial proposal. By the second year, Summit projects 1,400 patients.

An outline of the proposed operation provided by the company defines the Summit mission as, “service + education + collaboration = wellness.”

“Summit’s mission and greatest asset is to provide one-on-one interactions with our patients by professionally trained and knowledgeable staff, in a personal and compassionate manner, with the goal of helping patients reach a better quality of life – all to maximize patient wellness,” reads the statement.

David Lauterbach, president and CEO of Kent Center, said Tuesday that the plan to locate Summit with Kent came apart after a letter from the U.S. Attorney General made it clear the sale of marijuana is a federal offense and that the government could take action to close the center, regardless of state law. That action could include confiscation of the property.

“We were putting ourselves in jeopardy,” Lauterbach said.

At the time, he said, Kent made the decision it couldn’t go forward with the relationship. At roughly the same time, Gov. Lincoln Chafee placed a moratorium on the centers that has since been lifted with a rewriting of the law that significantly downsizes their operations. Initially, there were no restrictions of the number of plants a center could grow. Centers are now restricted to 150 plants, of which no more than 99 are mature. Centers are also banned from having more than 1,500 ounces of marijuana at a given time.

Lauterbach said Summit has not approached Kent Center, although it does have space in its building, since the law was rewritten. The first of the state’s three centers, the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center, opened April 19 in Providence. A second center, Greenleaf Compassionate Care, is expected to open in Portsmouth. Also, there is legislation to expand the number of centers.

Lauterbach said he liked the Summit approach to pain management as outlined it its initial application and he had no issues with the company’s overarching mission. Mayor Avedisian said he also liked the pain management plan but had concerns when two of the physicians in the original application said they had not been a part of board actions.

That became public on May 21, when Summit outlined its security plan to the City Council. Dr. Frank Maggiacomo, who is listed as a board member in the application, told the council that he and fellow board member Dr. Alan Weitberg are protesting the latest plan on the basis that it is not the same medical model they endorsed.

Avedisian said it is difficult to comment on what Summit proposes until the company has leases in place and has formerly filed with the Department of Health.

The outline provided to the Beacon describes a “welcoming, safe, professional and law-abiding compassion center that will be a reliable and trusted provider of quality marijuana medicine and related services; and a well-managed nonprofit business that will provide ongoing education and outreach programs relating to medical marijuana for the benefit of patients and caregivers.”

It says newly registered qualifying patients and their registered primary caregivers will initially participate in Summit’s “Intake/Orientation Process.” This would include verification that the patient is a registered qualifying patient who has designated Summit as a caregiver, and who will assist such patient to become a formally registered patient of Summit. New patients would be given a packet describing Summit rules and guidelines, programs, library reference materials, a guide to using medical marijuana and edibles and drinks, list of pain management and wellness services and description of Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa.

“Through training and experience, our professional staff will share their knowledge in helping patients make the right choices of cannabis for inhalation and alternative dosage forms as well. Furthermore, Summit’s patient management software will allow us to identify Summit patients with specific medical conditions,” reads the proposal.

Further, it says, Summit will likely feature 16 to 24 different strains of marijuana necessary to address various ailments, and would focus time and resources on making alternative dosage forms available.

The center would be open six days a week, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The company cites pricing of medical marijuana at between $200 and $300 per ounce, which may alter depending on the type of marijuana and available discounts. Summit intends to offer discounts with respect to various individuals, including without limitation state, federal and military disability patients; cancer and AIDS patients; terminal patients that have six months or less to live; and qualifying low-income patients.

Fracassa said board members would not be paid at this time. This week he said that URI graduate and professional basketball player Cuttino Mobley continues to be the sole Summit investor. Mobley committed to putting $4 million into the initial proposal.

Fracassa was also asked about whether Summit considered delivery services, as some dispensaries in California have adopted. He said that is not part of the Summit proposal. He said patients can designate a caregiver and in situations where a patient is unable to purchase the medication, he supposes the caregiver would do it.

Legislators are looking to expand the number of compassion centers in the state. The House approved a bill for five centers, which the Senate amended last week to four centers.

“Before we get more, let’s see if three work,” Avedisian said when asked for comment.

Lauterbach favors the decriminalization of marijuana.

“We have got to stop criminalizing people who use drugs,” said Lauterbach. His answer is to regulate, tax and educate as well as treat those who abuse substances.

Prohibition was not successful, he notes, and making marijuana illegal has not worked either.

“We have not stopped it. We have huge problems with substance abuse. I would like to see us treating these people and not treating them as criminals,” he said.

State law allows for patients to grow no more than 12 plants for their personal use. They can also get marijuana from licensed caregivers who may grow 24 plants and have up to five patients.


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