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Marijuana dispensary OK’d in Uncasville

By Lee Howard

Publication: theday.com

Published April 03. 2014 2:00PM   Updated April 04. 2014 4:33PM
East Lyme pharmacist approved to operate one of six state facilities

A 7-month-old East Lyme company has been chosen as one of the state’s first legal medical-marijuana dispensaries, the state Department of Consumer Protection said Thursday.

Thames Valley Apothecary LLC, whose principal is listed as Laurie A. Zrenda of East Lyme, plans to open by this summer a dispensary — one of six in the state — at the Center 32 plaza at 1100 Norwich-New London Turnpike in Uncasville. The facility will serve seriously ill patients who are certified as eligible by a physician and have registered with the state’s Medical Marijuana Program.

Zrenda, a licensed pharmacist for the past 27 years, said she is planning to operate the dispensary with her pharmacist niece, Meredith Elmer. Zrenda is the girls’ varsity tennis coach at East Lyme High School and works at Rite Aid in Uncasville.

“With the selection of dispensary facilities, all necessary pieces of the medical marijuana program are in place,” said Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein in a statement. “The dispensary facilities will be the public face of Connecticut’s medical marijuana program, and therefore, careful thought and deliberation went into selection of the most qualified applicants.”

Montville First Selectman Ronald McDaniel said Zrenda approached the town several months ago to determine whether it had any zoning prohibitions that would disallow the dispensary. Zrenda said she has been renting a space in town since October in hopes of securing a dispensary license.

“It’s an interesting opportunity for the town,” McDaniel said in a phone interview. “If there’s going to be a site, I’m glad it’s going to be here.”

McDaniel pointed out that the 1,200-square-foot Montville facility would be the only one east of the Connecticut River. But he also said he didn’t expect a ton of traffic in and out of town because, at latest count, there were only about 100 registered medical-marijuana users in New London County.

“I don’t see any major public safety issues,” he said.

Zrenda said she looked at several communities, including Norwich, New London and Waterford, before settling on the Uncasville location. She called it a discreet location but easy to find, and said she heard that another company had found a dispensary location in Groton but didn’t win state approval.

“It was a long hard road,” Zrenda said of the approval process.

The dispensary initially will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, she said. Zrenda was unsure about pricing policies, but said marijuana in a variety of forms will likely be offered, and the building is being renovated with security uppermost in mind.

A monitoring program centralized in Hartford will prevent anyone from shopping around to get marijuana at more than one dispensary, she added.

“Doctors are the gatekeepers,” Zrenda said.

The state previously had announced medical-marijuana production facilities would be located in West Haven, Portland, Simsbury and Watertown. A proposal submitted by two companies to produce medical cannabis at the Norwich business park failed to win approval.

The dispensaries, as with the production facilities, went through a competitive screening process, with a total of 27 considered. Dispensaries, required because medical marijuana has not been legalized on the federal level and therefore can’t be issued to patients through traditional pharmacies, will be granted licenses upon payment of a $5,000 fee and completion of all documentation within the next month.

Other companies receiving approval as dispensaries were Arrow Alternative Care Inc. of Hartford, Bluepoint Apothecary LLC of Branford, D&B Wellness LLC of Bridgeport, Prime Wellness of Connecticut LLC of South Windsor and The Healing Corner Inc. of Bristol.

“All are expected to be ready to open and serve patients by the time marijuana products are available from licensed producers sometime this summer,” the Consumer Protection department said in a release.

Despite the state’s approval of dispensaries and producers, medical marijuana is not covered by any insurance plan. The maximum monthly amount of marijuana that can be dispensed, according to a state website, is 2.5 ounces.

l.howard@theday.com

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