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Vendors Prepare for Connecticut's Medical Marijuana Market

Credit Sujata Srinivasan
Bill Downing of Dixie Yankee Botanicals in Massachusetts sells a sub-lingual tincture, used for treating various diseases and ailments.

The state Department of Consumer Protection is expected to award licenses by early 2014 to producers and dispensaries for the newly legalized medical marijuana market. In a ripple effect, other companies are also gearing up to grow market share in a new industry, estimated at $1.7 billion nationally by the Wall Street Journal, and predicted to quadruple in size during the next five years. 

"I'm hopeful to meet more medical providers for the state, and just get knowledge of the product out there."
Kyle Orce

Hoping to ride the "green rush," vendors showcased their wares this past weekend at the first annual Connecticut Cannabis Exposition in New Haven, organized by Waterbury-based event company Hanlee Productions, LLC. One of them, Jim Seiler, an entrepreneur and environmental odor control consultant, invested $30,000 to launch a new company, Kushley, LLC, this October. The Waterford-headquartered firm specializes in natural oils, candles and body lotions designed to biodegrade marijuana scent and body odors resulting from cancer treatment. “It’s new, it’s exciting, it’s a ground floor [industry], and we can help chemotherapy patients,” he said.

Other vendors benefit more from a change in mindset. Bill Downing of Dixie Yankee Botanicals in Massachusetts said his sub-lingual tincture, used for treating various diseases and ailments, was not previously illegal because it has only trace amounts of the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol found in marijuana. But more people are inquiring about his product now, he explained, because the government has legitimized what was once perceived as a street drug.

The growing demand is attracting more suppliers. Downing said, “If people see the current price of marijuana, and think that they’re going to make millions and millions of dollars because they’re going to be selling marijuana at $300 or $400 an ounce, I predict that those people are going to be severely disappointed because the price of marijuana is rapidly dropping. And this is a function of standard market; so if the supply goes up, the price goes down. The price of marijuana is about to drop from approximately $300 an ounce, in my prediction, to about $150 an ounce before it bottoms out.”

Kyle Orce of Fresh Solutions in Waterbury is a northeast distributor for a portable humidifier that keeps medications, and now marijuana, in a moisture-controlled environment. Made in the U.S., it’s a small brown packet that fits inside a pill container. "My goal," he said, "is to meet more retailers like HTG Supply out of Orange, Connecticut [and] Shock ‘n’ Awe -- they’re a retail location in Waterbury -- and to meet more stores. I’m hopeful to meet more medical providers for the state, and just get knowledge of the product out there.”

Shock ‘n’ Awe sells funky handmade pipes for tobacco users, and is getting ready to bring some cheer to cancer patients who might be prescribed marijuana. “This is a glass house,” said Feldman, pointing at the handcrafted glass creation. “[It’s] one of a kind, signed by the artist and it’s a $650 pipe.”

Matt Renaudo of Always Sunny Hydroponics in Waterbury hoped to share his knowledge of nutrients and soil types. “I’m here to show different products, and to make contacts with the personnel that are trying to start the [medical marijuana] growing shops,” he said.

Several patients seeking information on the medicinal aspect of marijuana also attended the expo. Bob Pauley of Wallingford, who has Parkinson’s, said just one pharmaceutical drug he was prescribed costs him more than $300 a month. While he was not sure what the price of marijuana would be, he smiled broadly at the perceived benefits. “You know, it’ll be more fun!” he said.

According to the DCP, residents treated by a Connecticut-licensed physician for diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s and Parkinson’s can apply for a permit to use marijuana medically. But doctors caution that the drug, although shown to be effective in some cases, is not suitable for all patients and medical conditions, and there are side effects.

As of November 18, the DCP had awarded 1,343 patients statewide with medical marijuana certificates. The department is reviewing 27 applications for dispensaries, and 16 from potential producers.

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.

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