A growing industry: Montville's marijuana dispensary expanding
Montville — The only state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary in the area is now serving more than 2,000 patients, has outgrown its rental space and plans to move into its own building in town.
Thames Valley Alternative Relief bought the site of a former Bank of America branch across Route 32 from the Uncasville Diner and plans to build additions in the front and back of the building, according to Laurie Zrenda, who opened the dispensary with her niece Meredith Elmer in September 2014.
Zrenda said she plans to move into the new site by this coming spring.
The booming medical marijuana sales could be a result of a number of factors. In February, six new conditions were added to the state-approved list of diagnoses that qualify adults for medical marijuana, and another five conditions, including cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis and uncontrolled intractable seizure disorder, were added to the list in October.
Patients must be diagnosed with one of the state-approved conditions before they can apply for a card that gets them access to medical marijuana at one of the eight dispensaries in Connecticut.
Zrenda said she also thinks doctors are becoming more comfortable with prescribing marijuana products in place of opioid painkillers.
"Doctors are starting to see results from people, so word of mouth has been working in our favor," Zrenda said. "It's a lot safer ... you can't overdose on this stuff."
In March, Zrenda said, Thames Valley served about 150 customers a day and saw a total of about 1,300 patients. Now she said the total customer base is up to about 2,300, a number that has climbed as the number of New London County residents with medical marijuana cards has grown from 910 in March to 1,596 as of this week.
More than 14,800 people statewide have a card, and the next closest dispensaries are in Branford and South Windsor.
Moving into the former bank building will give the dozen Thames Valley employees and their customers more elbow room, Zrenda said.
"We're tripping over each other behind the counter," she said. "We're busy."
The company also will offer drive-thru service at the new location for its patients, many of whom use a wheelchair or have trouble walking.
The new building also will have its own parking lot, an upgrade from the small number of spaces that Thames Valley has been sharing in an Uncasville shopping center with a tanning salon, a restaurant and a dog groomer, and other businesses who complained in March of a parking shortage.
Zrenda said she has applied for a building permit from the town and plans to start construction "as soon as possible."
Editor's Note: This version corrects the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in Connecticut; there are eight.
Conditions qualifying for medical marijuana treatment
State-recognized conditions that qualify patients for use of medical marijuana: cancer, glaucoma, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, nerve tissue damage to the spinal cord causing uncontrollable muscle disorders, epilepsy, cachexia (wasting syndrome), Crohn's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle-cell disease, back and/or leg pain or nerve damage following back surgery, severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease), ulcerative colitis, chronic pain following injury or trauma, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, irreversible spinal cord injury with nerve damage causing uncontrollable muscle disorders, terminal illness requiring end-of-life care, uncontrolled intractable seizure disorder.
As of Oct. 1, patients under the age of 18 also may qualify for medical marijuana to treat the following conditions: cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, irreversible spinal cord injury with nerve damage causing uncontrollable muscle disorders, severe epilepsy, terminal illness requiring end-of-life care, uncontrolled intractable seizure disorder.
For more information about qualifications, visit the state Department of Consumer Protection website, http://bit.ly/2hmRnjA.
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