Chris Kohan and Jay Richards are bringing three new medical cannabis dispensaries to the Pittsburgh area, but their vision goes beyond the sterile approach of a medical facility. The Healing Center, which will have locations in Washington, Monroeville and Cranberry, is designed to be a health-care community, offering massage therapy, counseling and support groups, as well as providing a safer alternative to prescription opioids. “The reason we got into dispensing is now we got a good law passed, and we have some seriously ill Pennsylvanians who need a good place to go to,” says Kohan.
Around eight years ago, Kohan and Richards began advocating for the legalization of medical cannabis in Pennsylvania. The subject was personal; Richards’ sister had died of cancer. “We started knocking on doors trying to get people to consider some responsible cannabis legislation,” says Kohan. From there, they continued to meet with advocates, lawmakers and entrepreneurs all over the state. “I think it helped us because we were looked at more as advocates than entrepreneurs,” says Kohan.
Now, under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act, marijuana for medicinal use can be obtained in the following forms: pill, oil, topical, tincture, liquid and vaporized. Richards and Kohan will be able to provide all of the above to those with a medicinal-marijuana license, but they are also setting their sights on broader health initiatives. Edibles made with medical marijuana cannot be legally sold in Pennsylvania, but Kohan says that patients may want to make them themselves. “It might be easier for a child to eat a cookie than to take a medicine, or try to spread a tincture under their tongue,” says Kohan. “We want to be a resource for people, with things like YouTube tutorials to help them to cook at home with [medical marijuana].”
The Healing Center is currently working with renowned cannabis chef Melissa Parks to help its clients cook at home. Parks, who is originally from Wheeling, W.Va., trained at Le Cordon Bleu, in Minneapolis, and is now based in Las Vegas. She’s the author of Herb: Mastering the Art of Cooking with Cannabis. “It’s a different delivery system [for the cannabis], and it’s absorbed through your intestinal tract. It takes longer to do, but it has much more long-lasting effects,” says Kohan. “It also retains the most healing properties because the CBD [cannabidiol] isn’t being burned off.”
The Healing Center in Cranberry is now open, and the Washington and Monroeville locations are set to open at the end of May. For more information, visit www.thehealingcenterusa.com.
Disclosure: Chris Kohan once worked for City Paper’s former parent company, Steel City Media.