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Applications for Medical Marijuana Program Off to a Slow Start

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Just 23 people have applied for the state’s medical marijuana program since a pre-registration period opened Nov. 2. That's according to Department of Health and Human Services division director Mary Castelli, who spoke Friday at a meeting of the state’s Therapeutic Cannabis Advisory Council.

Dispensaries aren't set to open for several months, but DHHS offered people a chance to pre-register as a way to access medical marijuana as quickly as possible once the substance is available.

All but one of the applications submitted so far come from potential patients, the other is from someone applying to be a caregiver.

Castelli said the low application numbers are not surprising at this point — patients need to receive certification from their doctors before submitting paperwork to the department, and setting up an appointment for that might take some additional time.

“I think, you know, we can expect the burst of applications still to come in,” Castelli said at the meeting. “And I also think that as the medical professionals become more comfortable, we’re going to see an increase as well.”

It remains to be seen how comfortable New Hampshire’s medical community will be with the idea of certifying their patients for medical marijuana. DHHS officials have fielded more than 240 calls and lots of online questions about the program, Castelli said — and many potential patients have voiced concern that their medical providers might not be willing to certify them for the medical marijuana program.

Patients have asked the department if it would be possible to maintain a list of providers that are willing to certify, but the state has not yet developed that kind of resource.

In other preparations for the eventual launch of the medical marijuana program, the state is also offering medical marijuana companies in New Hampshire the ability to request conditional approval to begin growing cannabis at a designated cultivation site before their dispensary location is ready to open. None of the companies have requested this kind of approval yet.

“We’ve made it clear to them, that as soon as you tell us you’re ready, we’ll get out there and inspect,” said DHHS Licensing and Regulation Bureau Chief John Martin.

Once approved, the cultivation process could take an additional three to four months to yield usable medical marijuana, according to the department officials.

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