PARK SLOPE/PROSPECT HEIGHTS – Brooklyn’s first licensed medical cannabis dispensary, Citiva, officially opened for business at 202 Flatbush Avenue on Sunday, December 30.
“The store is designed to provide the most patient-friendly experience possible,” Carlos Perea, Chief Operating Officer of iAnthus Capital Holdings, said in a statement. iAnthus owns the Citiva brand. “It serves as a welcoming and educational space for people to come in and learn about cannabis as medicine, interact with our patient care representatives, and find out what works best for them.”
Don’t expect to find dime bags, rolling papers, or bongs at the new facility. Located across from the Barclays Center, the bright 2,000-square-foot retail space looks like a typical Brooklyn boutique, designed with a modern apothecary feel.
“Everything is produced into an oil and then made into a different delivery system. There is no flower allowed,” said Colleen Hughes, Citiva’s Director of Community Development and Education, Wednesday morning when telling Bklyner about the available products. “It’s all made into an oil and then the oil takes different forms,” including capsules, vaporization (for vape pens), and water soluble powders which can be mixed into beverages.
While New York State allows the sale of medicinal marijuana, actual cannabis flower is not currently legal here. According to NYS regulations, Citiva sells products that are broken down in ratio by THC and CBD. “THC and CBD are the main therapeutic cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant,” Hughes explained. “In most cases people are isolating THC and CBD. THC is the molecule that causes the psychoactive effect, which is what cannabis is sort of notorious for,” she said. “CBD has zero psychoactive effect and is primarily the therapeutic benefit, the therapeutic cannabinoid, that complements THC. We put them together because together they work better than they do apart,” she added.
Hughes noted there are approximately 200 different compounds found in a cannabis plant that provide different effects. When patients purchase a vape pen cartridge at Citiva, it is packaged inside a tin labeled with its therapeutic benefits, “BT” for Bed Time, “FPR” for Fast Pain Relief, “GMS” for Good Morning Sunshine, etc.
With a staff of more than a dozen including two pharmacists experienced in cannabinoid medicine, Hughes said “anyone from the public can come into the dispensary and ask questions, talk to the patient care representative or the pharmacist.” (After being buzzed in, visitors must sign in and show identification.) However, a NYS-issued ID card is required to purchase any cannabis-based medication. “They can buy a t-shirt, they can buy a water bottle, they can buy a battery system [for a vape pen], but anything that has cannabis in it, they cannot buy,” she said of visitors without a state-issued card.
“Slow but steady,” is how Hughes described traffic at the shop since its opening just over a week ago. The three customers shopping at Citiva during Bklyner’s visit declined to be interviewed.
“We’re finding that still a lot of people do not know that medical marijuana is legal in New York State,” she noted. “We really have an opportunity here to educate people…. We want to offer a service to the community. It’s not just about bringing people in the door, it’s about educating everyone about the benefits,” she added.
While she is not legally allowed to make health claims, Hughes described her own personal experience using medical cannabis. “I’ve suffered from a chronic pain condition called endometriosis for more than 25 years. I’ve been prescribed all methods of birth control, hormone therapy, surgery, opiates, everything. I had been on opiates for over ten years,” she said. Hughes tried cannabis about two and a half years ago and said, “It helps treat the pain that I get in a way that was able to lessen my dependency on opiates. I’ve been completely opiate-free for almost a year now.”
Some of the qualifying conditions that medical cannabis can help treat include: chronic pain, post-traumatic stress, cancer, epilepsy, neuropathy (fibromyalgia), multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and HIV or AIDS. Visit the Medical Marijuana Program section of the New York State Department of Health website for the full list of conditions.
Those interested in shopping at Citiva should note the five patient registration requirements listed on the company’s website. Patients are instructed to:
- Consult with a DOH-registered practitioner to confirm that medical marijuana is an appropriate treatment for their condition. See a list of practitioners in Brooklyn at www.health.ny.gov.
- Obtain a patient certification from a registered practitioner.
- Register online at https://my.ny.gov and complete a health application in the Medical Marijuana management system. An ID card will be mailed to the applicant following registration.
- Designated caregiver(s) (designated during registration) must then follow the above three steps as well, including registering for an ID card online.
- Bring ID card and patient certification from healthcare provider to any licensed dispensary in New York.
A pharmacist is on staff at all times during the store’s open hours, and Citiva’s Medical Director, Dr. Jake D’Angelo, conducts ongoing training programs for all employees as the science evolves, new studies are released, and regulations change. D’Angelo noted that there is the potential for “medicine-to-medicine interactions” when using cannabis with other prescribed medications. “For instance, if you’re on a blood thinner, we know that there can be a potential interaction so that your dose of the blood thinner may need to be lower in order to achieve the same affect,” he explained.
D’Angelo also stated that pregnant women and people under 22 should not use cannabis. (Your brain’s frontal lobe is not fully developed until your mid-20s, he said). He added that as medical cannabis becomes legal in different states, “adolescents feel it’s less dangerous.”
“What we’re seeing in studies is they’re more likely to get in a car and drive with cannabis than they are with alcohol,” he said before stressing the need to get the message out to not drive while using cannabis. “That alcohol message we drilled into them, but we’ve never had this conversation,” he explained. “I think that’s a real big public health issue concern that we need to address as a community and as an industry.”
Citiva currently sells medical marijuana products by Etain and Pharmacann. Popular items that have sold during the dispensary’s opening week include Etain Forte 20:1 vape cartridges ($81 for 125mg) and Etain Forte 20:1 powder ($72 for 300mg/60 doses). Health insurance does not cover medicinal cannabis but state laws are changing, such as Governor Cuomo reconsidering the recreational use of marijuana and Mayor de Blasio changing policing policies for smoking pot in public.
Citiva will introduce its own products in the coming weeks. While currently being outsourced for production, Citiva will begin making its own formulation after its “state of the art” growing facility opens in Warwick, New York this summer. The facility will allow the company to grow plants, process oils, and formulate and package its own products. “Once we start growing our own, we [will] own the process from seed to sale,” Hughes said.
Pending DOH approval, Citiva will also offer delivery, making it easier for people who have difficulty traveling or are immobilized by pain to receive their medication. Patients will likely have to make an initial visit to the Flatbush Avenue facility before registering for delivery service which will require identity verification.
“We are very excited to be in Brooklyn,” Hughes said. “We are going to be doing a series of community education events around Brooklyn, out in the community. We’ll be hosting some informational sessions here at the dispensary, but I think mostly we’ll be joining various community groups and parent groups and doing educational programming outside.”
“We really want to be known as a valued resource for education about cannabis,” said Hughes. “We want people to come to us if they have questions, especially people who maybe are opposed to the legalization or people who are uncomfortable about the whole thing. We really want them to understand, we want to talk to them about their concerns…and present scientific evidence about those concerns.”
202 Flatbush Avenue (between Dean & Bergen Streets)
Hours: Daily from 10am to 7pm