When he was growing up in Dixwell, Johntaye Greene stood near the corner of Webster and Dixwell when a man was shot, fell, then died at his feet.
Traumatic incidents like that led Greene to self-medicate with marijuana to manage the effects.
Now, thanks to a new downtown New Haven business, he can take care of himself legally since three months ago he received a diagnosis of PTSD, based on his experience of chronic urban violence.
That qualifies him to be registered with Connecticut and to receive medical marijuana at one of the state’s dispensaries.
Greene, who runs a confectionary business, was happily catering the grand reopening of CannaHealth, a medical marijuana certification and advocacy business. The event drew a roomful of supporters and officials including Mayor Toni Harp to the new downtown offices at 178 Temple St.
The business opened a year ago in Westville. Founder and registered nurse Kebra Smith-Bolden said she outgrew her space and was also in need of a formal examining room where her psychiatric nurses perform the formal PTSD interview, which is the diagnostic basis for the medical marijuana certification.
So patients like Greene, who received his certification, are then able formally to register, online, with the state. With that registration they an either order online or go to one of the state’s dispensaries. Greene goes to Milford for his cannabis.
Smith-Bolden’s establishment — which also provides education and entrepreneurship guidance to engage minorities in the expanding cannabis business sector — is not itself a dispensary. (“A dispensary in New Haven” would be a plus, Greene said. Click here to read a story about plans by the Owl Shop’s owner to open a dispensary on Amity Road.)
The state recognizes 21 formal diagnoses of physical conditions to qualify for medical marijuana. They include cancer, sickle cell anemia, and multiple sclerosis. There is only one psychiatric condition: PTSD.
Only 1,100 doctors in the state can offer that certification, Smith-Bolden said, are certified to do that. That’s where CannaHealth steps in.
Over the past year, she and her team of nurses have certified approximately 800 people. About 25 percent of those, she reported, come in with a medical diagnosis, The balance come in direct with their problems, and no doctor referral.
These people arrive at the modest offices, fill out the questionnaire and then are interviewed bya nurse, who administers a formal interview to determine PTSD status.
That whole process costs about $200. Smith-Bolden said she makes it available to any veteran and anyone receiving public assistance for $75.
“It’s important to us to make alternative medicine [cannabis] available to all people,” she said.
“In the inner city , there’s complex urban trauma,” she said. That includes being “casualties of the war on drugs,” Smith-Bolden added.
The certification is annual. After a year in business, Smith-Bolden. said she is just beginning to see her first set of certifacatees return for renewal.
In addition to performing the psychiatric diagnosis for certification, education and support for clients, Smith-Bolden’s work collaborates with her business partner Dasheeda Dawson on M4MM, Minorities for Medical Marijuana, an advocacy group.
She is also a participant in Women Gro, an organization that supports women in taking their place in the cannabis industry. (She is one of three co-hosts of WNHH FM’s weekly “Cannabis Corner” program, as well.)
In moving opening remarks Thursday, Smith-Bolden said she entered the filed after taking care of her grandmother Hattie Turner, who worked in the police department as a screener and counselor for young people and advocated for juveniles staying with their families.
When Turner lost speech and physical movement due to an aneurysm, Smith-Bolden noticed she was not responding to traditional physical therapy. Turner insisted that smoking a joint and having a warm bath would enable her to overcome the severe arthritis and get her on her feet And that’s exactly what happened, Smith-Bolden recalled.
Smith-Bolden proceeded to study cannabis medically. She came to believe that — no matter their condition in life — should have the therapy accessible to them if they qualify.
Mayor Harp, who remembered Hattie Turner’s contributions, said after the ribbon cutting: “Thanks for adding to health care options for New Haveners.”