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A clinic for medical marijuana patients in Carlisle recently expanded, citing the Midstate as an underserved market for physicians who specialize in cannabis-based care.

Compassionate Certification Centers, a chain of clinics that began in western Pennsylvania, has been operating in Carlisle for roughly nine months. It recently expanded into a new facility at 469 E. North St. three months ago, said Dr. Bryan Doner, the company’s co-founder and chief medical officer.

“We’re going to be opening up more offices in the eastern half of the state soon,” Doner said. “Scranton, Philadelphia and Harrisburg are our priorities now.”

CCC clinics do not dispense medical marijuana. Rather, they employ physicians who specialize in marijuana treatment, and who can give patients the proper exam and certification needed to apply to the state for a medical marijuana card, which allows patients to purchase marijuana products at state-licensed dispensaries.

“We’re a physicians’ office that specializes in medical marijuana health care,” Doner said. “A person would come and see us for an evaluation, and assuming the patient has one of the qualifying conditions, we would certify them for marijuana.”

The CCC physician would then provide check-ups and other follow-up treatment while the patient uses marijuana, Doner said, just like any physician would evaluate and adjust their patient’s medication.

The business model is driven in part by the lack of consistency among major health care chains in the state as to how they handle marijuana prescriptions and treatment, Doner said.

“Most of the larger health care institutions have taken a backseat to this so far, although each institution handles it differently,” Doner said.

“We’ve seen similar models used in other states,” Doner said. “The big difference with our model is what we wanted to do is standardize the care across multiple clinics and locations, and then expand on that practice not only in Pennsylvania, but in other states as well.”

While CCC employs some physicians full-time, the majority of doctors are contract employees who also work at other clinics or hospitals. The Carlisle location has three part-time physicians who rotate through, plus a nurse and office manager, Doner said.

“Carlisle is one of our most consistently busy offices,” Doner said. “People have come from hours and hours away to see us at the Carlisle office.”

CCC clinics have certified over 10,000 patients in Pennsylvania since the state’s medical marijuana program rolled out roughly a year ago, Doner said.

“We have seen and evaluated more medical cannabis patients than any other clinic,” Doner said.

Almost 110,000 patients have registered for medical marijuana use in Pennsylvania since the program’s inception, according to Nate Wardle, spokesman for the PA Department of Health. Approximately 76,000 of those patients have been approved for their medical marijuana card, and have made a total of over 553,000 visits to Pennsylvania’s marijuana dispensaries. Nearly 1,000 physicians are certified by the state to see medical marijuana patients.

CCC also sells its own line of cannabidiol, or CBD, oil products, which have recently become popular in the holistic health and supplements market. Such products do not require a prescription, since they contain low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

The CBD oil products sold through CCC are derived from hemp, a strain of cannabis that is high in CBD and low in THC, Doner said.

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