Solevo Wellness – The Standard in Medical Marijuana

L-R – Rocco Levine, Annie Corbin, Richard Greer, Erin Rodgers, Patrick Gannon

Allegheny County’s First Medical Marijuana Dispensary Provides Relief for Patients

Jackson’s Pointe Plaza Location Opening this Month

For more information on Solevo Wellness, visit the website at: www.solevowellness.com.

As the adage goes, “You never know until you try,” but when it came to obtaining relief with medical marijuana, patients were not even able to try until Pennsylvania Act 16 was signed into law in2016. Now, with the passing of that legislation and the opening of Solevo Wellness, Allegheny county’s first medical marijuana dispensary, Pennsylvanians certified with certain medical conditions can obtain relief with quality medical marijuana products.

Solevo’s 5600 Forward Avenue location opened on February 15 in Squirrel Hill, and they will be opening a second location at the beginning of November in Jackson’s Pointe Plaza, Jackson Township, Butler County. Solevo Wellness is a private company based in Pittsburgh and whose investors include physicians, health professionals and individuals who believe in investing in the community and responsibly meeting the needs of patients with quality care and treatment.

“Our investors, many of whom are physicians, recognized the community’s need for medical marijuana. They’ve done the research and know that medical marijuana does help people. We’ve seen the results,” said Sam Britz, Chief Operating Officer. “We also know that there is still a bit of a stigma attached to medical marijuana, but in addition to providing care to patients, we are also focused on providing education to health care professionals, patients, caregivers and the community to dispel that stigma.”

Patrick Gannon – Marketing Director for Solevo

“Initially, there were 17 approved medical conditions for which patients could receive medical marijuana,” said Patrick Gannon, Solevo’s Marketing Director. “Now that has been expanded to 21 conditions.” Some of which are epilepsy, neuropathy, Parkinson’s Disease, chronic pain, cancer and terminal illness.

Annie Corbin is the Pediatrics Director for Solevo Wellness. A Pittsburgh native, she worked in Colorado in the industry and welcomed the chance to return to Pittsburgh and bring her expertise and experience to area children and their families. She has first-hand knowledge with using medical marijuana as she has epilepsy and her daughter was born with a brain defect that causes seizures. Medical marijuana has helped both of them remain seizure-free for the last four years.

“Medical marijuana use can help with autism, epilepsy, pediatric cancers and brain cancer,” said Ms. Corbin, who works with parents and children to find the most therapeutic benefit from medical marijuana.

There are more than 400 known cannabinoid compounds in the cannabis plant or what is more commonly known as marijuana. However, the two most prevalent compounds are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds secreted by cannabis flowers that provide relief to an array of symptoms including pain, nausea, anxiety and inflammation. These compounds found in cannabis work by imitating compounds our bodies naturally produce, called endocannabinoids, which work to maintain homeostasis within the body. Simply put, these cannabinoids interact with receptors on different cells, and when there is an imbalance within our Endocannabinoid System unpleasant symptoms and physical and mental complications can occur. One may use cannabis to influence our Endocannabinoid System to help regulate health and homeostasis.

THC is the compound that causes the euphoric feeling most associated with marijuana while CBD does not change a person’s state of mind. CBD interacts with receptors in our body and helps with pain, inflammation and stiffness.

“Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program has certified autism as one of the qualifying conditions. The state is only one of a few to do so,” said Mr. Gannon. “We are fortunate to be able to help these children, and we know parents need guidance when seeking to obtain medical marijuana for their children.”

Annie Corbin – Pediatrics Director

“All children are different, and we don’t know how they will react, so we take it low and slow to find the dose that is most therapeutic for their child,” said Ms. Corbin. “Generally, THC helps to calm autistic children and reduce meltdowns and aggression. CBD helps to modulate the effects of THC. There are thousands of different strains, and we accompany you all the way,” said Ms. Corbin. To make things as easy as possible on parents and their children, Solevo Wellness even has a sensory-friendly room onsite.

“We have had reports from parents who have their children take medical marijuana without alerting their child’s teachers, and the parents have told us that their child’s teachers have reported improved behavior. Now that’s an unbiased report of how beneficial medical marijuana can be for these kids,” said Mr. Gannon.

Solevo Wellness has aided patients of all ages. “One day we had a two-year child and a person in their 90s come in, but our average patient is in their 50s,” said Mr. Britz. “Presently, we see about 150-200 patients per day.” The company believes the demand for medical marijuana will continue to increase. In addition to the Squirrel Hill and Jackson Township locations, Solevo will open another in Greensburg by the end of the year, and there are plans for additional dispensaries in Lawrenceville and in Washington, Pennsylvania.

The process for receiving medical marijuana is not complicated. Essentially, if you have one of the 21 qualifying conditions recorded on your medical records, you need only to present your medical records to a certifying physician, and if approved, apply for a medical marijuana card. Once you receive your card, you can come to Solevo Wellness and work with their professionals to identify the strain of medical marijuana that will benefit you most. The Pennsylvania Department of Health maintains a list of Medical Marijuana Approved Practitioners on its website if your physician is not certified.

“The ‘Solevo Way’ is a bit different from the way some other medical marijuana dispensaries operate,” said Rocco Levine, General Manager, who is also a native Pittsburgher. He returned to the city after working as a manager in a San Francisco dispensary for eight years. “We take our time with our patients. You will meet first with a pharmacist, who will answer all your questions. Some dispensaries have you meet the pharmacist as a last step. Then we have you meet with a Patient Care Consultant and finally you go to the dispensary to receive your medication.”

Richard Greer is the Solevo Wellness Pharmacy Director. He received an undergraduate degree in Business from Duquesne University and worked for a time for a pharmaceutical company, which sparked his interest in returning to Duquesne’s School of Pharmacy to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy. “They do not teach about medical marijuana in pharmacy school,” said Mr. Greer, “and medical marijuana has always fascinated me—all of the aspects of it the therapeutic benefits, the legality, regulations on it and issues like federal versus state laws. I did a lot of research on the benefits of medical marijuana, and I have not stopped being surprised by the success stories we are seeing here.”

Medical marijuana may also help with the opioid crisis. What is often billed as a “gateway drug,” marijuana may actually be an “exit drug,” meaning that it could be the door through which addicts cross into sobriety. “There is new research showing that THC can help reduce the use of opioids and CBD can reduce the brain’s craving for them,” said Mr. Greer.

Marijuana, whether medical or not, is presently classified by the federal government as a Schedule 1 drug like heroin. Schedule 1 drugs are deemed to have “no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Therefore, research on medical marijuana is prohibited in the United States. This classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug makes medical marijuana ineligible to be covered by prescription insurance plans. It also forbids credit card companies from processing transactions to purchase medical marijuana. Solevo Wellness is permitted to accept cash and debit card payments.

“Offering medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is so new that we’re addressing issues as they come up. We’re hoping that as things progress and more people are educated, issues will be resolved and laws updated,” said Mr. Gannon.

Medical marijuana comes in several forms from creams that do not penetrate the blood stream and provide localized pain relief to ingestibles like capsules and tinctures that are applied under the tongue to inhalables like vape cartridges. By law, growers of medical marijuana must be located in Pennsylvania, and their products are tested by independent laboratories for purity and quality.

Lest you have any concerns about obtaining medical marijuana, Pennsylvania regulates everything from licensing and growers and producers in the state to the type of security that must be provided at dispensaries. Education is key when it comes to medical marijuana, and Solevo Wellness offers numerous seminars onsite as well as events throughout the community. For physicians and health care professionals wishing to become certified, Solevo Wellness periodically offers the 4-hour physician certification course.

“We’re finding more and more physicians are open to learning about medical marijuana and how it can help their patients,” said Mr. Gannon. Solevo offers numerous free events and educational opportunities such as lectures, workshops and courses for patients, caregivers and physicians. Solevo Wellness also offers podcasts. “Every month a panel discusses a different topic—everything from yoga to diet and exercise to pain management. We take a holistic approach to health. That’s why we designed our facility to have a medical spa feeling,” said Mr. Gannon. “Our most important mission is educating the public about medical marijuana and on other aspects of holistic health and wellness.”

Check out SolevoWellness.com/events for dates and times.

“We see patients coming in looking anxious and unsure, but then after they meet our pharmacists and patient care consultants and learn about how medical marijuana can help their condition, you see them walking out of here smiling. That’s so gratifying,” said Mr. Gannon.

For more information on Solevo Wellness, visit the website at: www.SolevoWellness.com.

By Janice Lane Palko

 

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