OPEN HOUSE: Public invited to walk through dispensary made from cannabis fibers Feb. 4

Published 2:13 pm Friday, January 27, 2023

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NATCHEZ — As the first medical cannabis dispensaries open in Mississippi, some in Natchez are getting ready to open and one is taking the opportunity to let the public inside before the medicine hits the shelves.

An Open House is scheduled to take place Saturday, Feb. 4, from 3 to 5 p.m. at Angel Leaf dispensary, located at 9 Roux 61 Drive, Unit A, said John Ford of Black Farmer’s Hemp — the parent company of Angel Leaf.

This event is open to patients and non-patients, healthcare providers and government officials whom Ford said all could use a better understanding of medical cannabis and what a dispensary of medical cannabis looks like.

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In accordance with Mississippi’s strict medical marijuana laws, once the dispensary has its product, it will be locked securely with no access beyond the lobby without a medical cannabis card.

As far as opening, Ford said, “We’re taking our time.”

“We want to be engaged with the market, not just open up the doors. We’re going to give people the opportunity to come in on the fourth.”

A distinguishing attribute of Angel Leaf is the design of the facility, which — except during the Open House event — cannot be appreciated until patients present their recommendation card and pass through the lobby.

The floors, table tops, counters and picture frames are all made from the stalk of the cannabis plant, which is like bamboo, Ford said.

The material, manufactured in North Carolina, has a light-brown, textured appearance and produces a fresh woody smell.

“We’re the main distributors of this product,” Ford said of the cannabis wood.

In the waiting room is a picture of what Hill said is “our family.” The picture, taken on a Kentucky farm in early 1846, depicts a family of Black farmhands. Kentucky is known as the greatest producer of U.S. hemp in the 19th and 20th centuries before its criminalization.

“Hemp, in the early 1800s without slave labor, could not have been produced,” Ford said. “We’re taking what was happening in the 1800s and saying, in this season, this plant is reparation to what happened. That is the connection.”

Black Farmers Hemp has two licensed indoor cultivation facilities in Louisiana with its first dispensary to soon open in Adams County. Per state law, all medical cannabis products sold in Mississippi are also cultivated and tested in Mississippi.

“We’re using three major cultivation facilities in the state which are testing their product here in Natchez,” Ford said.

Rapid Analytics, located at 131 Jeff Davis Blvd., Suite C, is one of two licensed testing facilities currently operating in Mississippi.

“We normally don’t have direct contact with the testing facility,” said Royal Hill, who manages the dispensary. “That normally comes through the cultivation side. It’s a great thing that we have one here in Natchez.”

Hill, a Natchez native, will be one to greet patients when they come through the dispensary doors and to check out the products they choose.

“First, we’ll ask you what is your experience, have you ever been to a dispensary and what your qualifying condition is,” he said.

Information about each product will be displayed on a touch-screen tablet to help patients make their selections.

“Not only will we have the medicine but we’ll have accessories as well,” Hill said. “Batteries for vape cartridges, rolling papers, pipes and things of that nature. Those who have never used those things before, we’ll be able to show them how.”

A private patient consultation room allows patients to have one-to-one conversations and ask any questions they need about a product and how best to use it for their condition, he said.

“When you come to Angel Leaf, you actually encounter someone with knowledge and information that they can impart to you and continue to educate you,” Ford said.