Marijuana dispensary opens doors in Williams

Route 66 Wellness Center currently serves about 12 patients in the Williams area, provides medical marijuana to cancer patients in clinical trial

Patricia Wuensche, vice president of Route 66 Wellness Center, stands inside the medical marijuana dispensary. The dispensary opened for business last month.  Ryan Williams/WGCN

Patricia Wuensche, vice president of Route 66 Wellness Center, stands inside the medical marijuana dispensary. The dispensary opened for business last month. Ryan Williams/WGCN

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Route 66 Wellness Center, the medical marijuana dispensary in Williams, opened for business Jan. 21 and currently serves about 12 patients.

Patricia Wuensche, vice president of Route 66 Wellness Center located at 341 E. Route 66, said so far things have been quiet at the dispensary.

"We just did a soft opening to kind of let people just slowly start coming in so we can kind of control what's happening, and that way we're not messing with the image of the town, which I know is a huge, huge thing," she said.

Most of the 60 people with medical marijuana cards in the area are growing their own marijuana, Wuensche said.

Cannabis Research Group (CRG), which opened the dispensary, still hasn't determined a cultivation site. The dispensary operates using donations from medical marijuana cardholders, which Arizona allows for the first year the dispensary is open. Once CRG finds a cultivation site, it will take about six months until it is up and running, Wuensche said. At that point, the dispensary will offer edible products.

Three employees work at Route 66 Wellness Center. The dispensary is open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. If the volume of customers increases, Wuensche said the dispensary will increase the hours and staff.

Apart from its local customers, Route 66 Wellness Center also supplies medical marijuana to cancer patients who participate in CRG's clinical trials. Nearly 1,000 people who are patients at Desert Springs Cancer Care in Scottsdale also participate in CRG's clinical trial, Wuensche said.

Andy Plattner, an attorney for Desert Springs Cancer Care, said the cancer center itself is not affiliated with the dispensary.

"The reality is, it has no ties and never has had any ties with the dispensary," he said. "It's really important that the record is straightened out here."

Wuensche, a former employee of Desert Springs Cancer Care, said CRG has supplied medical marijuana to participating patients at Desert Springs Cancer Care for 2 1/2 years as part of the clinical trials. The dispensary has a separate delivery system in Phoenix, so those patients will not come to Williams for their medical marijuana.

When a medical marijuana cardholder arrives at the dispensary, they must put their card in a cardholder outside the door. Cameras allow staff to zoom in on the card, and if it is valid, staff will buzz in the patient.

The next step is to run the medical marijuana card through a state verification system to confirm the patient has not already purchased the limit of 2 1/2 ounces of medical marijuana in a two-week period.

Once cleared, patients may look at the products available.

"We have tweezers, they can pick it up, smell it, look at it, choose what they want," Wuensche said. "So they actually get to do everything but smoke the product here so that they know whether it's something that they really want to do."

When the patient has decided what they want, dispensary staff weighs the product and puts it in a medicine bottle with a label containing the patient's identification number, the dispensary information, and the strain of medical marijuana.

"It looks just like a pharmacy label," Wuensche said. "They tried to make it as professional as possible."

Dispensary staff can educate the patients on which strain of medical marijuana to choose.

"There's two main strains, one you take at day time and one at night because one gets you too excited that you can't sleep and the other one gets you too sleepy," Wuensche said. "And then within those two there are hundreds of thousands of strains."

The dispensary has about 12 strains right now, but expects to have about 40 in the near future, depending on patient donations.

The Arizona Department of Health Services requires the dispensary to distribute patient education, including information about the precautions people should take when using medical marijuana and referrals for substance abuse.

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