The Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Education Center, or PAMMEC, seeks to teach people about the medical and therapeutic aspects of medical cannabis. This is something Leafwell is passionate about as well, so we had a chat with Theresa Nightingale and Emmett Nelson, who are PAMMEC’s founders.
Depending on the state, doctors and dispensaries are required to provide some form of patient education. PAMMEC went one step further, and set up a dedicated education center associated with Sunnyside dispensary. Emmett tells us, “We’ve been open for over 2 years. We’re the first facility of its kind. We help give patients education and resources so they feel comfortable in making the decision to become a medical marijuana patient.
We host different types of events here. Our most frequent events would be with doctors onsite for certifications and to help interested parties become medical marijuana patients. We hope to provide a one-stop solution where we can answer any questions they have, help them make payments for identification, and give them a base of information to utilize moving forward.”
We asked Theresa more about her role at PAMMEC:
“I was initially hired as a patient acquisition specialist to help people who came in, and to answer their questions. I’m well-versed in our [Pennsylvania] medical marijuana law, as I lobbied to help pass the medical marijuana law! My husband is a criminal defence attorney, and he and I have been very active in the cannabis activism scene for almost a decade now. It’s kind of a life passion of mine.
I’m a cancer survivor as well, so I’m a patient. Now I’m the community outreach coordinator for the state of PA. I help set up events and make connections.”
This got us here at Leafwell excited, so we asked Emmett and Theresa whether or not they’re planning to open up in other locations and states. Emmett replies:
“As a company, Cresco Labs has a presence in New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, Arizona, Illinois and Ohio. We hope to expand our programming and our ability to help patients in other states, but right now there’s just the one physical location, with plans for the second one.
We’re online as well. You can get in touch with us via the PAMMEC website, our Instagram and our Facebook as well. That’s also where you can find our event calendar. That’s how we communicate with our community, mostly.”
Has PAMMEC created a medical cannabis curriculum? Emmett says:
“We have a resource library with about 70 or 80 titles with all sorts of information relating to policy, legislation, health, wellness, cooking. We put together everything we could. So people can come and learn on their own and ask questions as they need. Not a curriculum per se, but plenty of information on cannabis patients’ rights, how to use cannabis and so on.
We also host all sorts of information events with third party lawyers and physicians and things of that nature.”
“[Recently, we held] a voter registration drive to encourage people to come in, register their vote and check their status. We ask them if they’re medical patients, and it leads onto that.
We’ve hosted a Know Your Medical Marijuana Rights event, where lawyers can explain things like DUI laws in Pennsylvania, how patients can be safe and not receive one of those.”
PAMMEC are clearly very active in the community, and they want to not only help increase people’s scientific understanding of the cannabis plant, but also improve the image of those who use medical cannabis:
“Being a good community partner is what we do. Being good neighbours, and making sure that we deliver on what we say we will. So next week, we’re doing a highway cleanup of a stretch of road that we’ve adopted. So we’re always trying to do positive things in the community.”
However, just because PAMMEC and other medical cannabis activists do such work, doesn’t mean they don’t have naysayers. Emmett explains further:
“We have received pushback. Not as much in this location specifically, because people are coming here to learn about medical marijuana. I think, when businesses came into town here and other locations, there was some pushback from people who didn’t really know what medical marijuana was about.
Through our efforts, we’ve been able to educate a lot of those people who didn’t necessarily understand the benefits of medical marijuana. Now we’re valued community members in a host of different places and markets. Just doing these community outreach initiatives, like helping out with cleanups, shows that we’re just good, hardworking people who want to make a difference. Just because we have medical marijuana in our name, doesn’t mean we’re not members of the community!”
So how do the people at PAMMEC convince the skeptic that cannabis has some medical value? Emmett explains it simply:
“It’s telling people that we don’t know everything. We tell them that the federal government doesn’t allow for research on cannabis yet due to its schedule I status. I can provide them information about the law regarding medical cannabis, voter registration and so on. We educate them on what we know.
We also remind people that, even if they’ve been using cannabis for many, many years, that there’s still new research coming out every month. It’s new for everybody, and it’s an ongoing process. Instead of looking at that as a scary thing, [we] put an optimistic lens on. Where else in the world can you experience something that’s almost completely new, for once, especially in 2020?! Everything’s been done a million times.
Medical cannabis is a new industry, so there’s a lot of opportunities for jobs, helping people, healing people. Honesty is the best policy.”
Due to the lack of clinical trials, we ask Theresa and Emmett if they have had to educate healthcare professionals about utilizing cannabis effectively as a medicine. This is Theresa’s area of expertise:
“I actually teach the Pitt School Pharmacy students once or twice a month. I help teach their interim students about the endocannabinoid system, patient rights, how the law was passed in the first place, things like that.
It’s a new thing to learn for a lot of these students. A lot of doctors don’t necessarily know about the endocannabinoid system. In Pennsylvania, doctors have to take a 4-hour course in order to certify for medical marijuana, so we encourage doctors to take that course.
Every so often, we do have physicians, nurses and others working in healthcare asking questions. We’ve even had the developers of Epidiolex (a CBD-rich oil made by GW Pharmaceuticals) come in here asking questions! Everyone from people who are for medical marijuana, against it, physicians, nurses … We’ve had a wide number of people coming in asking questions.”
What advice would Theresa give to a first-time patient?
“I think with the CBD trend that we’re seeing, a lot of people are thinking it’s a sort of cure-all for everything. While CBD is a great cannabinoid that does a lot of things, we like to remind people that it works best with other cannabinoids. The entourage effect matters. There’s many other parts of the plant that are medicinal.
Also, we tell people to start off low-and-slow, and that you can always take more and not less. Most of our patients are seniors, so many of them are being introduced to medical marijuana for the first time. Just the basics. We give them the 101 guide, which includes information about various cannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system, their rights as a patient, their second amendment rights, custody, workplace rights and things like that.”
Emmett chimes in to add that they give patients, “A primer, and then the onus is on them to go deeper into those sorts of things. We know what we know, but we don’t know everything. We’re by no means biologists, scientists, physicians or lawyers. We recommend that people educate themselves as much as possible. I think that’s the most important thing: to not only take our word for it, but patients finding out what works for themselves.
We’ve been in this field for many, many years, giving us greater insight into medical marijuana, but by no means are we the authority on all all aspects of medical marijuana. At least, I’m not. Theresa is the authority on a lot of things!”
Theresa agrees with Emmett’s assessment!
Finally, we ask what the lightbulb moment was for Emmett and Theresa. At what point did they start thinking of cannabis as medicine? Theresa answers first:
“As a cancer survivor, it’s definitely given me a better quality of life. I think for me, it’s definitely helped me with my anxiety, in conjunction with other coping mechanism skills. I would say that, you can’t deny that it helps people. Whenever you work in a place like this, and when people tell you their success stories, it’s hard to deny the value of medical cannabis. The story of an 80 year-old who’s on all kinds of opioids, and then after a few months of using Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) or concentrated cannabis they’ve reduced their intake from 75 micrograms to 25 micrograms. That’s actual, tangible results. Or to see a child with epilepsy, you put a little bit of oil under their tongue, and they stop seizing in front of your eyes.
A lot of our stuff is guesses and anecdotal evidence and educated guesses, but a lot of the results are tangible. You see that, and it really can change your life and appreciate it so much more. Considering that there’s no federal funding behind this, it’s even more surprising that we have the results we have.”
As for Emmett, he tells us why he started to use cannabis. “For me personally, I started utilizing it to improve the quality of my life and improving my mental, physical and emotional state. Recognizing that cannabis wasn’t the scary drug. I started using cannabis as a teenager when we had the whole D.A.R.E. program when we were taught whatever. That’s when I started realizing that cannabis wasn’t all bad, and I started educating myself.
I was in graduate school, doing my MBA and my research, and that led me down the medical cannabis path not only professionally, but from a personal standpoint. I just think it helps people.”
That’s all for now! If you’re in the Pittsburgh area and are looking for some advice on medical marijuana, we here at Leafwell would highly recommend that you check out PAMMEC! In the meantime, if you need to get certified for medical cannabis in Pennsylvania, you can do so online with Leafwell. Use code PAMMEC for $25 off.