The metro-east’s second medical cannabis dispensary, The Green Solution, is set to open in mid-September.
And to prime the pump of public interest, the firm that owns TGS hosted an open house Friday afternoon to show off its nearly 8,000 square-foot facility, a high-end retail outlet rife with closed-circuit cameras, reinforced security doors and display shelves that will soon promote popular strains of medical cannabis with names as distinctively memorable as “Sticky Ape,” “Chunky Diesel” and “Black Bubba.”
TGS, which is owned by a Denver-based chain of dispensaries, is opening up its retail outlet at the Archview Medical Center, a short distance from the stadium where the Gateway Grizzlies minor league baseball team plays its home games.
Although TGS is opening several months later than originally envisioned, Tanya Griffin, an Althoff Catholic High School graduate who oversees TGS’s Illinois operations, expressed unbridled energy and enthusiasm that a dispensary owned by her firm will be opening up a few miles from her hometown of Belleville.
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Griffin emphasized the high levels of security mandated by the state law that regulates Illinois medical cannabis pilot program.
“Every inch of this place, you are being watched,” Griffin said. “Inside and out.”
Griffin, who lives outside of Denver, spent Friday afternoon eagerly leading visitors on tours of the dispensary, taking them from the reception area near the front door where patients present their state medical cards and driver’s licenses, to the private room where specially trained consultants discuss patient needs and what cannabis strains might work best for them in the context of their medical conditions.
After passing through a reinforced security door, the visitors entered the main display area, which in a few weeks will be stocked with a wide range of products: pre-baked cookies and brownies, gels and oils, dried flower marijuana — all of it sourced from cannabis grown only at Illinois cultivation centers —and accessories, including vaping pen kits and inhalers.
Helping oversee the facility will be Griffin’s father, Michael Cordes, 74, who in a previous career worked on municipal economic development. Now he serves as the dispensary’s agent-in-charge.
Cordes, who allowed that he’s never consumed cannabis, said it wasn’t difficult for him to take a job in the medical cannabis industry.
“In fact when my daughters and sons and talked about it, I said, when it’s legal, it’s legal,” said Cordes, of Belleville.
No qualms about the morality of cannabis arose for him, he said.
“No, not when it’s legal to help medical patients,” Cordes said.
Griffin, a walking, smiling, high-energy encyclopedia of cannabis lore and information, delivered a brief seminar on the differences between two of the main types of consumable cannabis and their impacts on the mind and body.
“Sativa is really more of a head high,” Griffin said. “So it makes you think clearly. It’s a lot of clarity,” she said. “Whereas indica is more of a body high. So a patient who has insomnia, will lean toward indica.”
Griffin nodded toward a sign promoting a popular strain called Blueberry.
“Blueberry is an indica,” she said. “If you’re using Blueberry, and you’re an MS patient, you’re suddenly going to relax, your body is going to be far more relaxed.”
The area’s first medical cannabis dispensary, HCI Alternatives, in late January opened a 5,000-square foot facility off Interstate 70 near the Illinois State Police regional headquarters.
As of Aug. 3, the Illinois Department of Public Health has approved applications for 8,891 qualifying patients, including 64 residents under 18 years of age, since it began accepting applications for the Medical Cannabis Registry Program on September 2, 2014. About 11,200 individuals have submitted a complete application to IDPH.
Meanwhile, sales of medical cannabis for July totaled about $2.95 million, including about $1.8 million in dry flower sales and $1.16 million in concentrates/infused-products. Licensed medical cannabis dispensaries served almost 5,900 unique patients, according to the department.
In early July, the state’s medical cannabis pilot program got a huge boost from Gov. Bruce Rauner, who approved legislation extending the state pilot program for 2.5 years and added two more medical conditions — post-traumatic stress disorder and terminal illness — beyond the original 39 medical conditions, which include cancer, glaucoma, Hepatitis C and Parkinson’s Disease.
For Griffin, the medical cannabis industry is reaching a tipping point in terms of acceptance and financial stability nationwide.
“We’re here to stay, in my opinion,” said Griffin, noting that cannabis, whether recreational or medical, is legal in 25 states. Another 12 have some type of legalization measures on statewide Nov. 8 ballots.
Griffin noted that medical marijuana has been scientifically proven to be an effective, non-addictive painkiller that is far safer than highly addictive opiate-based painkillers, which are blamed for thousands of drug overdose deaths nationwide.
“The politicians are moving in this direction,” she said. “It’s bi-partisan whether its Republican, Democratic or independent, because the people have spoken.”