What could RI expect from the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center?
UPDATE: if you’re looking for the latest on the Slater compassion center, view its most recent application here. Since this post, the group has changed its location to 170 Royal Little Drive in Providence.
Today we’re hearing from Gerald McGraw Jr., the director of operations of J & J Electric in Warwick and the main applicant behind the proposed Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center.
McGraw says he was first attracted to the medical marijuana program because of his experience with a relative who died of cancer. Now, he’s a registered caregiver who provides medical marijuana for patients who have trouble growing it themselves or need to supplement their crop.
McGraw lists Susan Audino as the group’s director of quality assurance and quality control, Dr. David Carpentier as the medical director, and Ellen Smith as the patient outreach and advocacy adviser. Ellen Smith was one of the people featured in my story about the Cannabis Conference in Warwick last April. Let’s get started.
MH: Let’s say I’m a medical marijuana patient. Describe my experience when I walk through the doors of your compassion center.
GM: On an initial visit the patient will meet with an employee of our Member Services Department. While there, our team will orient the patient on the compassion center’s policies and rules, complete all necessary registration materials, and verify the status of the patient in the state’s program. All patients also receive a copy of our patient handbook, which provides details on all aspects of our operation.
When finished with Member Services, patients will have access to the dispensary portion of our facility. They will enjoy the calm and soothing aesthetic of our facility, which is focused on healing and wellness. They will notice our meditation garden, water features, religious reflection areas, and classroom space. Patients will also be able to access a host of ancillary holistic services like yoga, massage, Tai Chi, Reiki, and hypnotherapy – all available at no cost.
Our staff will offer friendly and knowledgeable guidance on the full array of medical cannabis offerings. Upon completion of the visit, the patient will leave with the comfort of knowing that a full-service and discreet security team is focused on their safety and well being.
MH: Where would your store be located?
GM: Recognizing that safe access to medicine is our paramount concern, it is equally important to have a compassion center site that is convenient for patients in our state. The largest number of patients in the program resides in Providence County. We have secured a building at 431 Harris Avenue in Providence. This location is large enough to house both our dispensary operations as well as our cultivation.
More importantly, the site is convenient for patient access and has lots of ample parking. It is located in immediate proximity to Routes 6 and 10 as well as Interstate 95. The location is situated along public transportation routes, including traditional RIPTA bus service as well as the local Providence trolley.
MH: Have you received zoning approval for your site?
GM: We have written approval from the Director of the Department of Planning & Development in Providence for our proposed compassion center. Additional correspondence approving our site was also received from the Department of Inspection and Standards in Providence.
MH: How would you handle security?
GM: We have engaged the services of APG Security to provide security at the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center. The security team will be headed by Thomas Underhill, a retired Lieutenant (Uniform and Detective Divisions) of the Rhode Island State Police.
The plan has been reviewed in its entirety by Paul Kennedy, Deputy Chief of Police in Providence, and Raymond S. White, Deputy Superintendent and Chief of Field Operations for the Rhode Island State Police.
The security plan is built on the concepts of safeguarding the growth, production, and storage of medical cannabis; providing a safe and secure environment for the Center’s staff, patients, and visitors; and developing comprehensive audit procedures for the entire operation as related to the handling and distribution of medicine.
MH: How much would the marijuana cost?
GM: The cost of medicine will vary depending on the particular strain. Our pricing for top level medicine will average $51 for one-eighth [ed note- 1/8 of an ounce] of cannabis. The price for medicine of a lesser quality and potency will obviously be less. In order to avoid diversion of medicine, our pricing structure is comparable to the current market value for cannabis in Rhode Island.
It is vitally important for compassion center operators to avoid any instance of diversion of medicine that is intended for licensed cardholders. Appropriate pricing is a safeguard against diversion.
MH: How would you meet the needs of low income patients?
GM: We will implement a “compassion program” that features a sliding cost scale relative to a patient’s income status. Special accommodations will be made for those patients who are terminally ill, including discounted or free medicine for these individuals. As a responsible non-profit entity, the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center is committed to ensuring that no patients will go without medicine due to financial hardship.
MH: What motivated you to apply?
GM: I was motivated to apply for the compassion center license as a result of my grandmother’s long and courageous battle against cancer. She was not availed the legal protection to use medical cannabis, which may have helped her pain, nausea and suffering.
I also have many family and friends who suffer from either terminal illnesses or debilitating conditions. Many of these individuals can be helped by the use of medical cannabis. I have also been enormously affected by my work as a caregiver for a courageous woman who suffers from a chronic, debilitating condition. She deserves the right to receive her medicine in a safe and accessible place that respects the healing and wellness benefits of the plant.
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?
GM: The response from friends, relatives, and colleagues has been overwhelmingly positive. I have received great encouragement from people of all ages and social strata. This issue enjoys wide public support, which I have evidenced first-hand by the encouragement of people around me.
MH: Why should RI pick your application?
GM: The Department of Health should award a license to us because our plan encompasses the spirit and ideals that were advocated so effectively by our namesake, the late Representative Thomas C. Slater. I care deeply about Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program and take my responsibility as a licensed caregiver quite seriously.
Along with my personal investment in the program I have secured a site that already enjoys approval by local officials. The location is convenient to patients throughout our state, allowing for dignified, affordable, and safe access to medicine.
We have also put together a team of leading local experts in areas like quality assurance, medicine, and cultivation. Above all, we have engaged the services of an operational consultant that has the most extensive and reputable experience in the country for non-profit medical cannabis dispensaries. Our site will be secured by professionals with deep ties to local enforcement, providing an added layer of comfort for the community.
Our proposal is rooted in an unwavering commitment to patients, an exceptional site, a comprehensive security plan, and a team of the most experienced leaders in the medical cannabis field. We strongly believe the Department of Health will be well served in awarding a license to our team.
To take a look at McGraw’s official application, go here.
Did I miss anything? Post your questions or comments below.