If you enter Liberty Cannabis — Philadelphia’s second medical marijuana dispensary — you’ll be greeted by a security guard, who will ask you to produce a state-issued ID, such as a driver’s license, and a medical marijuana ID card.
Only then will you be allowed inside, to the concierge, who will input your information into the system.
Holistic Industries, Liberty’s parent company, opened the dispensary July 16 at 8900 Krewstown Road in Northeast Philadelphia. This is the second Liberty location in the area. The first was in Norristown, and Holistic Industries plans to open a third location in Bensalem in either late summer or early fall. The Northeast location will serve as the area’s flagship store.
“We’re really dedicated to treating sick people of all different ailments and ages and conditions with cannabis,” Holistic Industries President and CEO Josh Genderson said. “We really believe there is so much this plant has to offer and the extract from the plant has to offer.”
About two years ago, Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana, but dispensaries are just now starting to open. Over the next few months, the Philadelphia area can expect to see other dispensaries pop up.
“Pennsylvania has been taking a long time to get established,” said Assistant Wellness Director Gabriel Torres, who moved to Pennsylvania to work in the state’s medical marijuana industry. “But it’s a good program.”
The inside of Liberty is designed to look like a spa, Genderson said. The dispensary has a clean and neat look, with products organized precisely on shelves and under glass counters and images of water and grass lining the tops of walls.
Liberty groups its products, which come in a variety of different forms including tinctures, live resins and waxes, based on its emotional effect: vitality, clarity, harmony, tranquility and serenity. Different colors, wing icons and images of grass and water mark the different emotional effects of the products.
“We spent a lot of time and money building a comforting, comfortable environment, welcoming for patients,” Genderson said.
Holistic Industries operates dispensaries, cultivation centers and processing centers in four states and Washington, D.C. By the end of the year, the company plans to have 15 dispensaries.
At Liberty, wellness guides and pharmacists on staff meet one-on-one with patients to determine the best product to meet the patient’s needs. Both groups go through internal training, and pharmacists also take a state training course on medical marijuana.
To buy medical marijuana, patients must first create a patient profile in the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s patient and caregiver registry. Next, they must obtain a doctor’s certification that they have one of the conditions medical marijuana is approved for in Pennsylvania. Afterward, they can pay for a medical marijuana ID card through the registry and begin buying products at dispensaries.
“We have so many first-hand experiences with treating things from epilepsy to offsetting certain cancers, certain tumors to offsetting the conditions that come with chemotherapy and AIDS treatment and chronic pain and anxiety,” Genderson said. “It’s really become one of the most fulfilling things we’ve ever done.”
Alan Fishman, 69, a Jewish wellness guide at Liberty, has had personal experience with medical marijuana.
A year and a half ago, he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Doctors told him he had nine to 12 months left to live and prescribed him Keytruda, an immunotherapy approved for certain kinds of cancer.
Fishman said he has been interested in cannabis for more than 50 years. After some research, he also began using Rick Simpson Oil (RSO).
Today, Fishman said his cancer is in remission. He believes the combination of the Keytruda and the RSO is responsible for making him cancer-free. In clinical trials, some patients taking Keytruda experienced side effects to the point where they were taken off of it. Fishman said the cannabis may have helped keep those side effects at bay.
“It is pretty obvious that cannabis is being used to help people all over the country,” he said. “The evidence is there.”
According to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, studies of rats and mice have shown that cannabis can cause cancer cell death. Research also has shown that medical marijuana can be useful in stimulating appetite, pain relief, nausea and vomiting, and anxiety and sleep.
Although at his age he could be in retirement, Fishman decided to go into the medical marijuana industry to help people like himself.
“I feel so much better because of the marijuana,” he said. “I want people to know that cannabis is there.”