MxCC Conference Examined the Palliative Use of Medical Cannabis in Connecticut

Hernandez with attendeesOct. 14, 2019 (Middletown, Conn.) — Middlesex Community College hosted a conference to explore how pharmacists, caregivers, doctors and patients manage medical cannabis through the Connecticut Medical Marijuana Program. Keynote speakers were Angelo DeFazio, R.Ph., president and chief executive officer of Arrow Pharmacies, and Connecticut State Rep. Quentin “Q” Phipps of Middletown. Middlesex professors Jennifer Hernandez, Ed.D., and Judy Wallace, D.P.T., coordinated the October 11 event which was attended by 120 professionals and students from around the state.

Hernandez, who is the coordinator of the human services program at Middlesex, said she and Wallace developed the idea for the conference by observing and interacting with students.

DeFazio“Students and others in the college community shared with me their struggles with PTSD, early childhood traumas, and other mental health issues. Some said they became patients who use medical cannabis but were not using it the way it was intended,” said Hernandez. “So we organized this conference to educate and inform, to open a dialog for new treatment options and to offer information to others in the field.”

At the morning conference, DeFazio, a federally licensed pharmacist, explained how Connecticut is the first state to implement a pharmacy-centric model for medical cannabis management, which is considered “the envy of other states.” He said that since people trust pharmacists, other states look to Connecticut as a model for their programs. A dispensary is a pharmacist; a dispensary facility can be viewed like a pharmacy, he added. Arrow Pharmacies operates three dispensary facilities in Connecticut.

Peter ApicellaAccording to DeFazio, only physicians certify qualifying patients for medical marijuana treatment in Connecticut. Pharmacists can obtain a dispensary license from the state Department of Consumer Protection. Primary caregivers register with the Connecticut Medical Marijuana Program for certification. The program also allows patients under 18 to receive treatment for certain qualifying conditions, he noted.

Peter Apicella, a graduate student at the agricultural and biotechnology lab at University of Connecticut, presented scientific background. Only female cannabis plants are cultivated to produce medical marijuana, he said. This is because flowers from the female plant contain the highest concentration of cannabinoids, a chemical compound that can provide relief to a variety of medical symptoms.

Quentin PhippsState Rep. Phipps shared his experiences with friends, especially minorities, who have inequities in mental health, and stressed the importance of having “open and honest conversations, so we don’t have to tell those stories.” He encouraged attendees to reach out to lawmakers of both parties, as well as older people who could benefit, and to have “no more fear and be vocal about it.”

“We can’t talk about policy if we can’t talk about health,” added Phipps.

Since 1966, Middlesex Community College has provided high-quality, affordable, and accessible education to a diverse population, enhancing the strengths of individuals through degree, certificate, and lifelong learning programs that lead to university transfer, employment, and an enriched awareness of our shared responsibilities as global citizens. A part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, MxCC offers more than 70 degree or certificate programs at the main 35-acre campus in Middletown, MxCC@Platt in Meriden, and online.