Amy Bufalini is launching a business in Vandergrift that will sell medicinal products derived from the cannabis plant — but she doesn’t need a medical marijuana license.

That’s because the oils and creams sold in the store contain only a minuscule amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical in marijuana that causes people to get high.

The store, which is set to open Sunday, comes as Pennsylvania reviews permits for medical marijuana dispensaries after last year becoming one of more than two dozen states to legalize the drug to treat specific ailments.

Bufalini doesn’t need a license because her store, the first Pennsylvania franchise of Colorado-based Nature’s Best CBD, isn’t considered a medical marijuana business.

The company-branded products it sells have a low amount of THC and aren’t classified as a controlled substance or illegal drug.

They are made from cannabidiol, or CBD, which is oil extracted from industrial hemp, a variety of the cannabis plant with a low concentration of the chemical in marijuana. Hemp is grown for industrial use, such as making paper and textiles, and also is used in foods, skin-care products and health supplements.

Bufalini claims the Nature’s Best CBD products can help with conditions including inflammation, anxiety and seizures. Many sell for about $70 per bottle.

They are considered a dietary supplement.

“The big advantage of having a store is people get to come in and actually talk to me to try to figure out which is the best route for them to help alleviate their pain or help with any other conditions,” Bufalini said.

Vandergrift Mayor Lou Purificato said he thinks people may be confused about what kind of products will be sold at the store. However, he said he hasn’t received any feedback from residents. He said he doesn’t have any strong feelings either way about it selling hemp oil products.

“I think it’s a precursor to legalized marijuana,” Purificato said.

Dr. Antoine Douaihy, professor of psychiatry and medicine at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said it’s not uncommon for people to have trouble understanding the difference between CBD products and medical marijuana products.

“Both of them come from the same plants, just different parts,” Douaihy said. “The U.S. laws define the hemp as all parts of any cannabis sativa plant containing no psychoactive properties.”

Douaihy said while there has been some medical research that shows the potential benefits of CBDs, it’s not enough to be conclusive.

“They definitely will have some medicinal properties, but at the same time we don’t have enough studies that show us what these properties (are),” he said. “I’m really hopeful that we will see more studies that can be done to look at these potential substances that could have very much of an impact.”

Douaihy said although there are potential benefits from CBDs, it’s hard to know exactly what you are getting because the products aren’t regulated for quality.

Dr. Bryan Doner, who works at ACMH Hospital in East Franklin and is an advocate for medical marijuana, said products like the ones Bufalini will be selling are most commonly recommended for conditions that involve chronic pain or nerve pain as well as seizures or muscular conditions. He plans to speak at the store’s grand opening.

“Probably about three to four years ago I started reading about the clinical and scientific research that was out there on medical cannabis,” Doner said. “What I found was that physicians and health care providers really were not provided with a baseline education about the science about this.”

State Rep. Joe Petrarca, D-Washington Township, who was involved in the legislation last year to get medical marijuana legalized in Pennsylvania, plans to attend Sunday’s grand opening.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “What that is is it’s another tool in healing and the healthing process.”

The idea for the store grew out of a personal story that took Bufalini to Colorado, a state that is one of the most progressive in legalizing marijuana for recreational and medical use, where she had planned to open a medical marijuana business.

Bufalini began researching natural products that relieve pain when her son, Jesse, was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy more than 20 years ago.

She found out about cannabidiol products in 2013 when she went to Colorado to try to get a license to sell medical marijuana. Her plans to move there permanently with her son were crushed when she was denied a license because she wasn’t a resident of the state for at least two years as required.

That door closed but another is opening.

Starting Sunday, Bufalini will sell 16 products ranging from oils that can be taken orally to topical creams.

She views the business as her calling.

“I found out my purpose,” she said.

Source: Emily Balser, Tribune-Review Staff Writer
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