HEALTHY HEMP: Highest Care, Healing Clinics host joint ribbon cutting celebration

Published 5:12 pm Friday, March 10, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Both a dispensary and an evaluation clinic for medical cannabis hosted a joint ribbon cutting Thursday evening on Jeff Davis Boulevard.

Three pillars of the budding cannabis industry now exist within the same block as both The Highest Care at 131 Jeff Davis Blvd. Suite D and The Healing Clinics, located at 151 Jeff Davis Blvd. Suite B, celebrated grand openings.

Between the two, Natchez’s nearest testing facility is Rapid Analytics at 131 Jeff Davis Blvd., Suite C.

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Highest Care was the first medical cannabis dispensary licensed to open in Adams County and the first to officially open its doors to patients in late January.

The Healing Clinics, less than a block away, is a first stop for patients who have not yet qualified for a medical cannabis card and are in need a place to see a medical marijuana doctor for an evaluation.

“We are excited that you all are embarking on these new businesses and a new line of businesses for Natchez,” said Lyn Fortenbery Jenkins, president and CEO of the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce.

Kathryn Thomas, LPC, who is the clinical director and CEO of The Healing Clinics, founded a clinic in Shreveport in 2018 and has opened additional clinics in Louisiana and Mississippi.

“It doesn’t seem like much but we went through this in Louisiana and folks, this is history,” Thomas said at Thursday’s ribbon cutting. “We made history in Mississippi.”

In addition to the new clinic in Natchez, The Healing Clinics has other locations in Shreveport, Monroe, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, and Madisonville, Louisiana.

The Healing Clinics offers both in-person and telehealth appointments with their physicians.

First, prospective patients would call 601-653-0510 and complete the initial screening to see if they have any of the qualifying conditions listed by the Mississippi State Department of Health. If so, they can have an appointment scheduled with The Healing Clinic’s physician to certify them for medical cannabis.

If they have a qualifying condition, patients could receive an electronic ID card within 30 to 60 days. With a card in hand, they will be able to go less than a block away to The Highest Care — or any other licensed dispensary in Mississippi — and purchase their medicine.

They will also be able to return to The Healing Clinic for additional follow-up appointments and drug screenings to determine if the medication is working for them, said Lee Turk, MD, a physician at The Healing Clinics.

Turk is a 40-year Natchez resident and a retired physician from Merit Health Natchez.

“Here, they receive a complete examination and certify their qualifying condition to become fully certified by the state. … In six months (after they’ve received their medication) they return here and I will do a review and see how they’re doing. That’s a requirement for them to be able to keep receiving the product.”

The Healing Clinics has a cannabis industry participant, activist, patient advocate and attorney on staff. Jacob Irving, J.D., serves as Regulatory Consultant for The Healing Clinics and Vice President of Consulting Services for Bridge West Consulting.

Irving was born with spastic quadriplegia from Cerebral Palsy and joined the cannabis industry as a student and patient advocate, testifying in front of the Louisiana Legislature to make medical marijuana accessible to himself and other patients.

Since 2014, he has assisted in the drafting or passage of all things medical cannabis in Louisiana, Thomas said.

“He wrote the laws,” she said. “He’s an amazing example of how it works.”

“Seventeen Bills later, we have the actual program that we have today,” Irving added. “It started as a passion project for me and it’s something that I really believe in. … Particularly, people with Cerebral Palsy can have a better quality of life by getting access to it earlier before they develop muscle contractions and long-term musculoskeletal disabilities. What started as a passion project for me became a career.”