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Nuleaf Brings Relief

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Whether conservative or liberal, for or against, many Americans have differing opinions when it comes to the age-old topic of marijuana. But in finding common ground, the majority can agree that the times are changing. So Incline Village is turning a new leaf, so to speak. The recent July 1 opening of the NuLeaf Medical Marijuana Dispensary in North Lake Tahoe has sparked conversation in the local community.

According to the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH), NuLeaf is now one of five certified dispensaries in the northern region of Nevada. The owners and investors have four active permits in the state with two dispensaries (the other in Las Vegas), and two projects in the works including a production in Reno and a cultivation in Sparks for next year.

NuLeaf was one of 372 accepted applicants for medical marijuana establishments out of 519 applications submitted in November of 2014, according the the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health. As of July 2016, approximately 18,600 patients were registered in the program. With roughly a two-year building process, the business has now been open for two full months. General Manager Eli Scislowicz talks about the recent medical marijuana opportunity in Nevada.

“We recognize that this is somewhat of an isolated community, compared to down in Reno. That’s where most of the applications were going in, and we always like to serve underserved communities. Considering our experience from the Bay Area, we weren’t in San Francisco or Oakland, but we were in Berkeley, a smaller town. There was a large enough population that was underserved, that we felt we could help, and we did, and it was a success because of that. So we tried to duplicate that, and I think definitely part of the calculation was reciprocity. We didn’t only want to help the isolated community in Nevada between Crystal Bay and Incline, but we also saw Kings Beach and Truckee as being some of the underserved communities as well,” Scislowicz said.

As one would expect, there is always an element of concern about the role of the establishment and how the community will react to a business of this nature.

“A lot of people expected the world to end when we opened. Which, if everyone’s told you there’s this dangerous drug that you shouldn’t touch for your entire life then maybe I could see how you could have that perspective. The reality is that cannabis is the safest medicine on the face of the planet,” said Scislowicz.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Nevada since 2001, but at that time consisted of patients growing their own supply. Unfortunately for those with more serious health issues such as AIDS, cancer, and glaucoma, they found it more difficult to find the time, resources, or knowledge to alleviate their symptoms. It wasn’t until the last couple of years that patients had safe access to dispensaries.

“When we talk about regulation and when we talk about what we want to allow in our town, sometimes we lose sight of that ultimate end result, which can mean the difference between waking up in pain everyday and having some relief,” Scislowicz said. “When you consider the patient’s alternative and how lost they feel sometimes when they go down this rabbit hole of prescription drugs, it’s extremely hard to get out of. I think having us here will improve the community. I think it will strengthen ties between people, it will get people who are suffering from diseases more active and it will get people who are suffering from addiction [to pharmaceuticals] off of those substances and on to something that is a little bit more safe and a little bit healthier for them.”

Through research in the community, the comparison of pharmaceuticals to medical marijuana was a reoccurring topic in the context of its influence on college students.

Senior and retired United States Marine Corps, (USMC Ret). veteran Cody Beuttenmuller has had his California Prop 215 recommendation since 2013.

“The reason I medicate with cannabis is due to cervicalgia (chronic pain and herniations due to broken neck and surgery) as well as social anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, it’s still a recommendation, not a prescription, so as a veteran I have to be careful because it is still federally illegal, Beuttenmuller said. As mentioned, it helps get me to class and relax me enough to where I don’t need to take the prescription drugs the VA tries to slam down my throat. My first year at SNC was very foggy due to all my prescription medications,” said Beuttenmuller. “When I started switching to medicinal cannabis, I was much more clear-headed and focused on getting my work done.

Senior Forest Jade visited the dispensary for the first time with his California medical card, which is also recognized in the state of Nevada, “I think it’s a great positive influence, certainly in comparison to how many pharmaceuticals are found inside of college campuses, for anxiety and depression and chronic pain, and with all of the student athletes we have, I think it’s a much healthier alternative to the side effects from the generic pharmaceuticals,” said Jade.

Beuttenmuller has not been to the new dispensary but hopes to go soon. “I’ve heard nothing but great things. I think that for people, especially student veterans, it will be very beneficial. However, I do not agree with students faking stress or injuries to get a medical marijuana card. I think that a collective that sells such potent marijuana so close to a private university can plague students prone to addiction and laziness. For people suffering from multiple injuries that are service connected, I support it 100 percent,” he said.

Scislowicz has looked into the demographics of the community and says it is becoming clear who is interacting with the local dispensary.

“The sample size is a little too small to really generalize, but we are definitely a little more towards matching the demographics of the area whch is a little older. Which is good! I think there are a lot of people who are dealing with health issues and those tend to prop up later in life and those are probably our most frequent patients,” said Scislowicz.

Local Naturopathic Doctor Ann Sura, shared with me her understanding and knowledge of medical marijuana as well as the increase of medical marijuana use. Dr. Ann Sura has been a licensed naturopathic physician for 19 years, and she has been practicing at NaturaMed Natural Family Medicine in Kings Beach since October 2010.

Sura believes that the increase in medical marijuana is due to the research on the beneficial effects for numerous health issues regarding certain strains of cannabis.

“As this research, and clinical anecdotal evidence continues to grow over time, citizens are pushing for legislation to accommodate the need for this medicine…As time progresses, I am sure more successful uses will be found for this medicine. What we know now, however, is a blanket prescription for medical cannabis is not the answer. Different strains help with different medical conditions. Most everyone who thinks of marijuana thinks about the THC content, the part of the plant that is the psychoactive ingredient, but there are more than 50 different cannabinoids and they each impact the body differently,” said Sura.

Dr. Ann continued to list the cannabinoids known to have both psychoactive and pharmacological effects. She also speaks on the importance of having a medical marijuana dispensary available to our North Tahoe Region.

“The importance comes in the regulation of dispensing, following the law as voted on and approved, as well as, in my opinion as a physician an extremely important factor, having knowledgeable staff available to assist the patients in making an informed decision as to the strain of cannabinoid best suited for their malady,” said Sura. “I know there has been considerable concern about a dispensary in our region, particularly with regard to what message we are sending to our youth. Having young children myself, I feel a dispensary is the right way to ensure those people who will benefit from medical marijuana are served appropriately and within the regulatory guidelines set out by the state. As for our current dispensary [NuLeaf], they offer what has been lacking in the North Tahoe region, which is a controlled environment for the legal dispensing of medical cannabis…they appear to have done a good job of blending aesthetics with security.”

She noted that Nevada state law does not currently recognize naturopathic physicians. While California recognizes and licenses NDs, the state does not allow naturopathic doctors to prescribe medical marijuana, leaving only MD’s and DO’s to prescribe it. She shares that she can, and does however, recommend it to certain patients where it seems the best solution for their particular illness and can refer them to a prescribing doctor for an assessment.

NuLeaf offers many products including, but not limited to, flowers, edibles and extracts. Scislowicz said, “We also offer topicals that don’t contain any psychoactive ingredients that just have cannabidiol (CBD) that are good for relieving pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and other conditions.”

Nuleaf employs several local Incline residents and intends on being community partners with local businesses to potentially improve the economy here. Scislowicz also stated that he was open to working with local artists.

“We want to be a positive member, we want to contribute to local organizations, we want to be there to be a partner,” said Scislowicz.

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Nuleaf Brings Relief