East Liverpool company to open county’s first medical marijuana dispensary

Morning Journal/Jo Ann Bobby-Gilbert Waiting to welcome patients to the new medicinal marijuana dispensary on Dresden Avenue in East Liverpool are (from left) Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Myers, Vice President of Cultivation Cassandra Maffey, Vice President of Research and Development Dr. Lindsey Snyder, PhD, and Vice President of Operations Paul Crowder.

EAST LIVERPOOL — Pending final inspections, ribbon cutting ceremonies to open the city’s first medical marijuana dispensary have tentatively been set for Feb. 7, and officials of FRXHealth are anxiously awaiting to serve their new clients.

The dispensary, 1865 Dresden Ave., is located in portion of an existing building which has had an addition recently completed to total about 3,000 square feet, all of which has been designed to meet or exceed state requirements, according to Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Myers.

“We said we would do more than the state said we had to do, and we have,” Myers said during a recent tour of the nearly finished facility.

Along with hiring local contractors to build the addition and finish the interior, the state has “worked hard to make sure to help us get open,” according to Paul Crowder, vice president of operations at FRXHealth.

The facility is designed with patient safety, comfort and education in mind, starting with the parking lot equipped with video cameras for security and the waiting room outfitted with soothing wood and stone.

Due to confidentiality reasons, company officials asked that specific details not be shared of other steps taken to ensure the security of products being delivered and stored at the premises, but they are considerable.

In the waiting room, patients will sign in and, while waiting to be seen by the pharmacist, will be able to enjoy a cappuccino while watching what FRX staffers laughingly call the “standing cell phone,” a large screen that will play educational videos about a variety of topics related to medicinal marijuana and its benefits.

The education room awaits patients at their next stop, where they can speak with a representative for any information they might need, receiving more one-on-one attention than in the waiting room, also taking advantage of a host of informational brochures and data banks that will be available in the room.

They can also receive instruction in how to administer the medicinal items that are ordered, since there will be various medical devices that will be used to administer the dosages, such as vape pens, for example.

“Not everyone’s going to know how to do this,” Crowder said, saying, “Some of the delivery ways are unique.”

In the dispensary itself, pharmacy technicians and a pharmacist will be available to assist patients in acquiring the medicinal marijuana ordered by their physicians, with two private counseling rooms available for consult, as well as the actual counter for purchasing their order as one would find in a pharmacy setting.

And, although the Ohio Board of Pharmacy regulates the medicinal marijuana operation, FRXHealth officials are quick to emphasize this is not a pharmacy, but a dispensary, as is the terminology required by state law. In fact, the company itself changed its original name from FarmaceuticalRX at the state’s request due to concerns that it may have been misleading.

One of the primary areas in which FRX exceeded state requirements was in hiring a licensed pharmacist and pharmacy technicians, neither of which is required, and the company hired local people in those positions.

Local pharmacist Joe Jeffries has been named pharmaceutical director while the two technicians hired recently lost their jobs with the closing of the K Mart pharmacy, according to Myers.

Cassandra Maffey, vice president of cultivation, said one of the major benefits to hiring licensed pharmacists and technicians is that many patients will be taking other medications and these experts will be able to guide them in regard to any contraindications with those and the medicinal marijuana.

“Some may need time to explain why other delivery methods didn’t work for them. Instead of standing in a line at the pharmacy, this will provide a more intimate experience,” Maffey said.

Currently, there are three East Liverpool doctors able to write orders for medicinal marijuana: Mohinder Singh, Dharam Batish and Theodore Chrobak, and Michael Madison in Salem, with an estimated 35,000 potential customers in Ohio, according to FRX officials.

Initially, FRX will be purchasing its product from other cultivators, but it is currently waiting for its approval as both a cultivation and processing company, with preparations already underway at the former Ferro Corporation in the East End of the city for those operations in about 110,000 square feet.

For this reason, the dispensary will be limited at first to offering medicinal marijuana flowers and vaporizers to administer them. Eventually, it will offer a wide variety of items such as pills, tinctures, oils, mints, topical creams and even strips similar to breath strips.

Some of the items will contain more THC — the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that causes a “high” — than others, which will contain more CBD, which is not psychoactive, both of which are found in the cannabis plant.

FRXHealth is also committed to doing more than just growing, processing and selling medicinal marijuana, according to Myers.

“There is anecdotal evidence that marijuana has been helping people for generations. We’re going to do that research,” Myers said, adding, “We’re making the products available, but what makes us us is our biotech research. Why has this been working for centuries? That’s what our company is about: Answering that question.”

Noting that Maffey is considered one of the top cannabis growers in the United States, Crowder said, “We can deliver all the research and amazing patient services. People from all walks of life are joining our company.”

FRXHealth is partnering in its research with a number of universities and hospitals.

While there will be about seven people employed at the dispensary, FXRHealth expects as many as 100 to be hired if approval is gained for the cultivation and processing operation.

Myers said, “You will see a big impact on the community with the processing and cultivation operation is up and running. We’re really trying to train (local) people into high-paying, cutting-edge jobs. We’re training people in the community who will be part of the foundational explosion. That’s what (Mayor) Ryan (Stovall) and (Service-Safety Director) Brian (Allen) saw (when they recruited FXRHealth).”

If final inspections go as planned, the ribbon cutting is set for 11 a.m. Feb. 7.

“We’re ready,” Crowder said.