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Norwich - Tracey Gamer-Fanning stood before the City Council Monday night and firmly announced that if her firm receives its state license to produce medical marijuana later this month, she would be the face of its success.
"It's not smoking pot," Gamer-Fanning said. "I'm going to show you what we're going to do for Norwich. That's me."
Gamer-Fanning, 42, of West Hartford, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2006 and given three to five years to live. She went through surgery and suffered paralysis. Radiation, powerful pain medications, anti-seizure drugs and anti-nausea medicines left her bedridden and incapacitated.
She wanted her life back, and a physician quietly recommended she try medical marijuana. She now takes medicinal cannabis oil that dissolves beneath her tongue. She said it has eliminated her previous side effects and allowed her to go on with her life.
"I am now starting the first medical marijuana pharmaceutical company in Connecticut," said Gamer-Fanning, a board member on Vintage Foods. She said she also co-founded the Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance and has raised $1.5 million for brain cancer patients.
Vintage Foods Ltd., with an office in Ledyard, and Bloomfield-based Nascent Sciences LLC are among 16 companies that have applied to the state Department of Consumer Protection for one of three state licenses to produce medical marijuana under the new state law legalizing medical marijuana. State officials are expected to award licenses early this year.
Both companies hope to locate their businesses in the former Decorative Screen Printing building at 9 Wisconsin Ave. in the Stanley Israelite Norwich Business Park. Pharmaceutical production facilities are allowed in the industrial park zone.
Claudette Carveth, spokeswoman for the state Department of Consumer Protection, said the agency is on track to make licensing decisions by the end of January. Vintage Foods officials will meet with the state on Monday.
Gamer-Fanning called herself the "heart" of the company, with David Kimmel as the "brains." During the half-hour informational presentation to the council prior to the regular meeting Monday, Kimmel described in scientific detail the numerous chemical components that can be derived from the cannabis plant.
While acknowledging the smiles and smirks he often receives when discussing his proposal, Kimmel insisted the company is not about "smoking pot." He said people smoke marijuana for medical benefits, because there is no alternative, but he said it is an inefficient medical delivery method.
Kimmel's company would use high-tech research in the works in countries outside the U.S. to derive pills, oils, topical skin treatments, trans-dermal treatments and doses that dissolve beneath the tongue or between cheeks and gums. Developing exact, consistent medical doses is the goal for patients who need reliable treatments, Kimmel said, for treatments of cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma and Crohn's Disease.
"We are not promoting the idea of smoking cannabis," Kimmel said. "Our program is for the truly ill, seriously ill patient."
Kimmel said he wrote in his state license application that he would only grow marijuana for smoking "if forced to" by the state. The proposal includes a research partnership with Yale University School of Medicine to develop pharmaceutical cannabis products.
Jason Vincent, vice president of the Norwich Community Development Corp., said he first contacted Kimmel and three other companies to invite them to consider Norwich because the operation could bring financial benefit to the city. The completely indoor operation would use large amounts of electricity, purchased from Norwich Public Utilities, along with natural gas and water from the city-owned utility.
But Vincent said he later became a strong supporter of the scientific basis for the project and the potential to help patients deal with difficult diseases.