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Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center-East meets West concept for selling medical marijuana

May 26, 2010

Here’s the second installment of conversations with some of the 15 people who’ve applied to run one of Rhode Island’s compassion centers. Today we’re hearing from Dr. Seth Bock, an acupuncturist based in Middletown, and the force behind the Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center.  Seth Bock says he has owned the Newport Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine wellness spa with his wife for around 10 years.

Bock sites their background in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine as one reason why they’re uniquely qualified to help medical marijuana patients find the ideal dosage and treatment for their conditions.  He cautions that no medicine is a panacea, including marijuana, and in some cases other strategies might be better or complimentary for medical marijuana patients. Bock plans to guide his patients through those options at what he calls the Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center.

MH: Let’s say I’m a medical marijuana patient.  Describe my experience when I walk through the doors of your compassion center.

SB: Upon entering our new establishment you will be greeted by friendly and knowledgeable staff that will walk you through the various aspects of our program.  We will have a pharmacist on-hand at all times and I personally will be available to help our patients.  We believe a safe and esthetically pleasing atmosphere to be of utmost importance to our patients and therefore have decided to use the designer that designed my Wellness Spa in Middletown.  Our facility will be a blend of east meets west and medical spa.  In addition to the pharmacy, there will be a small retail section offering paraphernalia and other lifestyle products, such as meditation CDs, as well as a lounge.  We have also allocated a section of our space for an industrial kitchen, which will be implemented as soon as we navigate the food safety regulatory process.

MH: Where would your store be located?

SB: We have chosen Aquidneck Island to launch Greenleaf.  The State has indicated that convenience is a factor.  Since there is no single dot on the map that would be convenient to all Rhode Island residents, and given that many East Bay Medical Marijuana patients can not easily get to the main body of the State, it seems logical to situate one of the three centers on Aquidneck Island.  It appears as though many of the applicants are locating their proposed centers in the Cranston region, which is great for residents in that area, but not so great for residents in Middletown or Little Compton for example.

MH: Have you received zoning approval for your site?

SB: We have full approval for the horticultural component and will go before a Special Uses Board for the dispensary.  We have met the town administrator, zoning official and police chief and all are supportive of our mission so we anticipate approval for our desired dispensary site.  If that does meet their needs, we have been informed of other nearby locations that would.

MH: How would you handle security?

SB: We are working with a security company that has created a state of the art security plan for our facilities.  We are working closely local law enforcement who will administer an on-site training program for our staff.  Relative to other sections of Rhode Island, our facility is located in a very low crime section of the State.  As we move forward we will determine, in conjunction with law enforcement, whether having a full time security detail is necessitated.  Our facility is a two minute drive from the local police station.

MH: How much would the marijuana cost?

SB: We will offer a variety of price points ranging between 200 and 400 per ounce

MH: How would you meet the needs of low income patients?

SB: We will be basing our program for charity care on Federal Financial Aid parameters and this will be calculated using on-line FAFSA calculators [ed note-FAFSA= Free Application For Federal Student Aid but Bock says this is just the way they’ll be calculating aid qualifications.  Charity care will be open to anyone that qualifies.]  It will be our goal as a non-profit to expand this program as much as possible and we have created measures to assess and adapt to the needs of low income patients.

MH: What motivated you to apply?

SB: I recently lost two very close relatives to cancer, both of whom had to procure their medicine illegally in Massachusetts.  If Greenleaf is awarded a permit we will dedicate our establishment to their legacies.  I also believe medical marijuana is symbolic of a trend towards greater open-mindedness and recognition of herbs as viable treatment option.  For so long many voices in the allopathic medical establishment have derided herbs as being dangerous, voodoo or too weak to have medicinal effects.

After several years of working in research ethics at Harvard Medical School Hospitals I came to realize that pharmaceutical drugs are essentially poisons.  Sometimes they are medically beneficial but quite often the pros do not outweigh the cons.  For the past ten years my work as an acupuncturist has affirmed the dire situation pharmaceuticals have led so many people into.  I am also very aware of how easily statistics can be manipulated to falsely prove that a particular drug is useful and that the FDA does very little to look at long-term side effects of medicines.  All combined, I decided that Chinese medicine was the path I would take.  I see Medical Marijuana as the next step in the evolution towards a more patient centered, rather than profit driven, and natural practice.

MH: Medical marijuana is often the butt of a lot of jokes.  How have friends/relatives/colleagues responded to your interest in running a compassion center?

SB: I initially thought family and friends would be inclined to joke about it and have been really surprised that no one has.  I think the tide has shifted considerably in the past decade.  I think just about everyone knows someone that has benefited medically from cannabis and I think that has greatly diminished its stigma.  I will say that it is fortunate that we are now accepting of an herb whose chief side-effect is laughter!

MH: Why should RI pick your application?

SB: Well, let me state first that I think there are some terrific applicants out there.  I know from experience that this process has taken everyone a considerable amount of time and effort. So hats off to all the applicants.  I also think the State should award all three permits.  There simply is no way that one facility can service the entire state.  For example, I have had several MMP [Medical Marijuana Patients] patients tell me that they will not leave Aquidneck Island to go to a compassion center due to the nature of their illness.  I believe the overriding goal of the Thomas Slater Medical Marijuana Act was to make a safe and healthy product available to all residents of the State.  To issue one permit is to not attain the mission of this act.

I feel very lucky that I have been able to put together such a strong healthcare oriented team.  Between the staff and board of directors Greenleaf has three acupuncturists, two physicians, one pharmacist, one nurse and a current care-giver who is a horticulturalist that owns a 500 acre small plant nursery.  Our CFO is the president of a company that has partnered with the Board of Health to administer vaccinations for nearly a decade.  When it comes to the necessary components I believe we have each and every part needed to excel in this endeavor.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 30, 2010 9:09 am

    Continued good luck to Seth and his team.

    The country is addressing the ‘business’ of health care, and clearly the State of RI is open to improving the experience of illness and dying.

    The added benefit of a compassionate care facility is that the experience of wellness, too, could be transformed. Our medical practitioners will benefit from the outcome of this openness to herbal treatment…the left hand needs to talk with the right hand. So many patients turn to alternative care to remedy the long list of side-effects prescribed by allopathic practitioners with complete ignorance of alternative and complimentary therapies. We are smarter than that! Neither party ought to be threatened by a more open-minded approach to wellness…not for the sake of money alone should wellness be compromised with the regularity with which it is currently compromised.

    This move by the State and the applicants is good for RI and it’s people, keep on!


  1. What could RI expect from the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center? « The Pulse: Megan Hall has her finger on health care in RI
  2. Hearing on medical marijuana plans tomorrow « The Pulse: health care in RI

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