Medical marijuana grow operations in full swing as dispensaries start to open

  • Temescal Wellness Executive Director Anthony Parrinello talks about the growing process at Temescal Wellness’s therapeutic cannabis cultivation site in Manchester on Friday, May 6, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Marijuana plants in the early stages of growth are seen at Temescal Wellness’s therapeutic cannabis cultivation site in Manchester on Friday, May 6, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Marijuana plants in the early stages of growth are seen at Temescal Wellness’s therapeutic cannabis cultivation site in Manchester on Friday, May 6, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Flowering marijuana plants under yellow heat lamps are seen at Temescal Wellness’s therapeutic cannabis cultivation site in Manchester on Friday, May 6, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Flowering marijuana plants under yellow heat lamps are seen at Temescal Wellness’s therapeutic cannabis cultivation site in Manchester on Friday, May 6, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Flowering marijuana plants under heat lamps are seen at Temescal’s therapeutic cultivation site in Manchester on Friday.

  • Flowering marijuana plants under yellow heat lamps are seen at Temescal Wellness’s therapeutic cannabis cultivation site in Manchester on Friday, May 6, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Flowering marijuana plants under yellow heat lamps are seen at Temescal Wellness’s therapeutic cannabis cultivation site in Manchester on Friday, May 6, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Temescal Wellness employee Bri Mutz measures marijuana into canisters at Temescal’s therapeutic cannabis cultivation site in Manchester on Friday. Temescal’s Dover location opened this week and its Lebanon location is also getting ready to open. Photos by ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Scenes from Temescal Wellness’s therapeutic cannabis cultivation site in Manchester on Friday, May 6, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Temescal Wellness employee Bri Mutz measures cannabis into canisters at Temescal Wellness’s therapeutic cannabis cultivation site in Manchester on Friday, May 6, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

Monitor staff
Published: 5/6/2016 7:02:03 PM

Beneath the whirring fans and heat lamps in a large metal room lies what Temescal Wellness Executive Director Anthony Parrinello refers to as “a sea of green.”

Inside a nondescript industrial park near the Manchester airport, hundreds of marijuana plants in various stages of growth sit on stainless steel trays as machines dispense the required amount of water, nutrients and ultra-bright light, replicating the sun.

“It’s a plant, just like a flower or a tomato,” Parrinello said. “Just like any plant, it grows and matures.”

In four months, they will transform from seedlings to massive, fragrant 4-foot tall plants with thick buds and large leaves, ready to be dried, clipped and deposited into airtight canisters for transport to Temescal’s dispensary in Dover and soon, its second location in Lebanon.

After weeks of preparation, Temescal’s Dover location opened Thursday.

“It was an emotional day (Thursday) for some of the patients,” Parrinello said. “To see it culminate (Thursday) . . . it was incredible, it was really moving.”

Temescal Wellness is one of three companies operating a total of four dispensaries across the state. Temescal has locations in Dover and Lebanon, Sanctuary ATC has a dispensary in Plymouth that opened last week and Prime Alternative Treatment Centers will open one in Merrimack later this summer.

Each dispensary’s product is grown in-state at its own cultivation facility. The facilities are tightly controlled, with room temperature, nutrients and water dispensed methodically.

“We’re feeding (the plants) every day,” Parrinello said. “You’re really trying to replicate the sun. In this business, controlling your environmentals is crucial.”

Inside this particular facility, keeping things sanitary is crucial for plant health. New Hampshire state regulations call for the cannabis produced by dispensaries to be organic, meaning no pesticides can be used.

Employees and visitors need to take extra precautions not to bring in bacteria, mold or insects when they enter. Employees are required to put their street clothes in airtight bins and wear sanitized scrubs when they work with plants.

In the span of four months, 30 different strains of marijuana are grown in three different rooms. The smallest plants start to grow in the vegetative room for a few weeks, growing out their green leaves. The baby plants receive about 16 hours of light per day and eight hours of darkness.

Once the plants start to bud and flower, they’re transferred to another room, where the grow lights get more intense and are on for 12 hours a day.

The flowering room and the third room – where the biggest, most mature plants live – have the highest temperatures at about 77 or 78 degrees.

When its time for the cannabis to be cut and dried, almost every part of the plant can be used. The buds can be smoked or vaporized, and the leaves can be turned into oil or tincture to be put into capsules or baked into edibles.

There is a wide variety of indica and sativa strains, some of which are high in THC to help stimulate appetite, while others are high in the cannabinoid CBD, which helps control pain.

Some things Temescal offers in addition to smokable strains include 10 mg capsules and transdermal patches for people who can’t tolerate smoke.

Parrinello is involved in every aspect of the dispensary, from helping grow and harvest the plants at the Manchester grow site to helping terminally ill patients get out of their car and walk into Temescal’s dispensary.

“It’s rare in your life you can truly help someone,” he said. “We are doing that every day.”

Many of those patients are looking to get therapeutic cannabis as an alternative to the opioids they take for pain.

As of last week, New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services had approved more than 600 applications for therapeutic cannabis registry cards and had received 800-plus applications.

New Hampshire patients with illnesses including cancer, glaucoma, ALS, muscular dystrophy, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions can qualify for therapeutic cannabis as long as their primary care doctor certifies they have the condition.

However, some doctors have been slow to jump on the bandwagon. HHS licensing chief John Martin recently said the most complaints his office gets from patients is that their doctors refuse to certify that their condition could qualify them.

Medical marijuana is personal to Parrinello. At age 19, he lost his father to cancer.

“Seeing him in his final stage, something like cannabis could have been a good alternative or compliment to his morphine,” he said.

He worked at therapeutic cannabis dispensaries in Massachusetts before heading up a New Hampshire operation.

Parrinello is adamant in his belief that a lot of seriously ill patients can benefit from cannabis.

“All the patients that qualify for a card can benefit,” he said. “These folks, they have seriously debilitating conditions. These patients, unfortunately, all they have left is hope.”

(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, enilsen@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ella_nilsen.)




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