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Bluepoint Wellness: Medical Marijuana Comes To Westport

The entrance is out of the way. The sign outside is small.

But Bluepoint Wellness will have a big impact.

Area residents suffering from cancer, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and other  debilitating diseases — and who qualify under strict conditions — no longer have to travel to Bethel or Milford for medical marijuana.

Westport’s dispensary fills a need in lower Fairfield County. Despite fears of a few people during the long application and permit process, it will not attract hordes of stoners, turn children into addicts, or change the town irrevocably.

In fact — unless you need relief from chronic pain — you won’t even know it’s here.

And you sure can’t get inside.

Earlier this week, I got a look. I was lucky: Once it opens, only people with state-issued medical marijuana registration (and their caregivers, also certified by the state) will be allowed in.

The soft opening is today. The official opening is Monday.

Bluepoint Wellness occupies 4,200 square feet in what was most recently Coco Spa. That’s on the side of the shopping plaza, behind the former Pier 1.

I was met by David Lipton — a longtime Westporter, co-founder of Bluepoint Wellness, and CEO of Advanced Grow Labs, one of Connecticut’s 4 licensed medical marijuana producers.

We were joined by Nick Tamborrino. Co-owner and manager of Bluepoint, he has both a pharmacology degree and MBA.

Nick Tamborrino (left) and David Lipton, at Bluepoint Wellness.

The partners searched all over town for the best location. They like this spot. It’s on the Post Road, but relatively private. There’s nearby parking — important for medical patients. They added a handicap ramp for ease of access.

Bluepoint applied for a permit in April 2018. They got their license 8 months later. Construction began June 1.

“We wanted to create a welcoming, professional, safe environment,” Tamborrino says. “The aesthetics are reflective of Westport — beach-y.”

The interior is open and inviting. There’s a large reception room with comfortable furniture; private rooms for pharmacy consultations, and a customer service desk. Products are stored in a secure vault.

The waiting area, and service desk.

On an initial visit, a patient meets with one of Bluepoint’s 5 pharmacists. They go over medical records and medication history, and establish treatment goals. For example, a side effect of cancer treatment can be loss of appetite. So in addition to lessening pain, the right product would stimulate appetite.

Bluepoint offers inhalation and oil products, capsules, tablets, sublingual sprays, tinctures, topicals, lotions, bath balms, salts, teas, and edibles like cookies, brownies, granola and honeys. State law prohibits the sale of gummies, chocolates and candies.

All products are safety-sealed, and child-resistant.

Each one is tested by a 3rd-party lab too, for impurities and microbials.

Connecticut’s program is highly regulated. It’s one of the few states where medical marijuana is dispensed by certified pharmacists.

Of the 38,000 Connecticut residents certified for medical marijuana, 8,360 are in Fairfield County. For many, Bethel and Milford were long, painful treks.

Bluepoint Wellness of Westport will be a welcome relief.

It’s Official: State OKs Medical Marijuana Dispensary In Westport

In June, Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission voted 4-2 to allow 1 medical marijuana dispensary in Westport.

But that was not the final step on the long road traveled by the applicant, Bluepoint Wellness. Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection still had to approve the application. It was one of 73 submitted to the state.

This afternoon, the DCP announced the approval of 9 new dispensaries. Bluepoint is on the list. The site — the lower level of 1460 Post Road East, in the shopping center with Rio Bravo restaurant — is currently occupied by Coco Spa.

David Lipton — a Westporter, and president of Bluepoint Westport — said the interior will be “tastefully done. The dispensary will reflect the town.” The target date for opening is September 1.

1460 Post Road East: the site of Bluepoint Wellness’ new medical marijuana facility.

Today’s action by the DCP doubles the number of pharmacist-led medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. There are currently 9.

Lipton is also CEO of Advanced Grow Labs, a research and production facility in West Haven. They are a joint venture with Bluepoint Wellness, which already operates a medical marijuana dispensary in Branford.

Lipton calls the Westport approval “very important” for patients in this area of Fairfield County. Today, the closest dispensaries are in Bethel or Milford.

“Right now, that’s a long ride for people who need medical marijuana,” Lipton says. “This means a lot more access for those in the Westport, Weston, Fairfield, Norwalk area.”

There are 30,500 registered medical marijuana patients in Connecticut. The state has certified 31 medical conditions for adults to use the drug, and 8 for patients under 18,

The DCP also approved a medical marijuana dispensary in Stamford today. The other 7 locations are spread throughout the rest of Connecticut.

(For a detailed list of questions and answers about medical marijuana, click here.)

Medical Marijuana: A Dispensary Q-and-A

David Lipton is a lifelong Westporter. He’s part of Bluepoint Wellness, which this Thursday (April 19, 7 p.m., Town Hall) is on the Planning & Zoning Commission agenda for its applicaton to open a medical marijuana dispensary at the present site of Coco Spa, behind the old Pier One store at 1460 Post Road East.

Lipton is also CEO of Advanced Grow Labs. Based in West Haven, it’s one of 4 state-licensed producers of medical marijuana.

Officials have opened up a Request for Application for 3 to 10 new dispensaries statewide. They may or may not pick a Westport site. There are now 5 applications here.

Lipton offers this information about medical marijuana dispensaries not to advance his own application, he says, but to explain the entire process.

Who can enter a medical marijuana dispensary?

To enter a medical marijuana dispensary in Connecticut you must be a registered patient with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection.

Who is the DCP?

The DCP is the regulatory agency that controls the medical marijuana program, as well as all food and drugs manufactured and sold in Connecticut.  They oversee licensing all patients and their caregivers, all dispensaries, all producers, and all employees at the dispensaries and producers.

How do you become a registered patient?

To be a registered patient you must be diagnosed with one of the following conditions:

Adults: Cancer, glaucoma, positive status for HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, intractable spasticity, epilepsy, cachexia, wasting syndrome, Crohn’s disease, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, sickle cell disease, post-laminectomy syndrome, severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, complex regional pain syndrome, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, irreversible spinal cord injury, terminal illness requiring end of life care, and uncontrollable intractable seizure disorder.

Patients under 18: cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, severe epilepsy, terminal illness requiring end of life care, uncontrollable tntractable seizure disorder.

So it’s not a traditional retail shop or pharmacy where anyone can visit?

To enter a dispensary, you must be registered with the state, and have both a DCP-generated ID and a state photo ID.

The Bluepoint Wellness dispensary, in Branford. Advanced Grow Labs is partnering with Bluepoint on an application for a Westport location.

How do you register with the DCP?

If you have a qualifying medical condition, your physician can register you with the Department of Consumer Protection on the DCP licensing website (biznet.ct.gov). As a physician-recommended patient you then register on the state’s licensing site, which asks detailed questions. You must provide proof of residency, a passport-style photo, and a $100 application fee. If approved, the DCP issues you a patient ID card, which you use to enter the dispensary. You must register with a specific dispensary in the state. You cannot go randomly to any dispensary.

How many dispensaries are there, and where are they located?

Currently there are 9 licensed dispensaries for the 25,000+ registered patients. There is an open RFA (Request for Application) to add 3 to 10 additional dispensaries so they are more readily available to patients throughout the state. Right now, some patients drive a long distance to access a dispensary. There are 2 in Milford, and 1 each in Bethel, Branford, South Windsor, Hartford, Bristol, Uncasville and Waterbury. The DCP may award just 3 new licenses, or up to 10.

I hear a lot about Westport picking 2 to 4 dispensaries. Will that happen?

This is part of the misinformation that has confused everyone. The answer is no. Westport does not select the dispensary. Westport approves the zoning for a dispensary through P&Z. The licensing is awarded by the DCP in Hartford after reviewing all the applications received. They are hefty applications, so this takes quite a bit of time. It involves a great deal of background checks, narratives, and details from the potential operators of the dispensary, who must prove to the state that they are highly qualified to safely and securely operate a dispensary.

So why are  people talking about 4 dispensaries coming to Westport?

Again, this is misinformation. The town population in Westport is 26,000. If at all, the DCP would only approve 1 dispensary in a town of that size — and they may not select Westport at all. But if they do, it means the applicant has proven to the DCP through their application that they are qualified to safely and successfully operate a dispensary.

Compassionate Care — a medical marijuana dispensary in Bethel.

How does DCP decide on how they will award a license?

The DCP uses a scoring system. The highest score is 2000; the minimum is 1500. It is a very competitive process. Applications often end up being more than 1000 pages, with detailed answers to very in-depth questions.

Will a dispensary damage the perception of how Westport is viewed?

No dispensary in Connecticut has brought any issues or problems to the towns in which they are located. In fact, they bring consumers to the towns who spend money at locations other than the dispensaries – restaurants, shops, etc. A dispensary sells merchandise just like CVS or Walgreens. They sell product that comes in an orange dram, sealed, just a prescription from your pharmacy. Everything is highly secure.

Will a dispensary disrupt the town of Westport or bring criminal behavior?

Again, this is misinformation. There has not been one incident of a problem in any of the towns where there are dispensaries. These are just patients, just like the people going to CVS to get medicine. They want to get in and out the door. It is just like any other errand by any other person.

Will it cause odor?

You won’t even know it’s there. There are no odors emitted by the dispensary. This isn’t like Colorado or California. All the medicine is packaged in drams or sealed in plastic bags. Nothing is open. There is no looking in jars at medicine. It just like the medicine you pick up at CVS. There won’t even be a sign that says “dispensary” on it. It is a very discreet operation.


Medical Marijuana Debate Begins Monday. Or Not.

Connecticut is not Colorado or Washington.

But the Land of Steady Habits is 1 of 20 that allows marijuana to be grown and sold for medical use. Our state is in the midst of choosing growers, and sites for dispensaries.

Westporter David Lipton’s Advanced Grow Labs is among 4 companies recently licensed to produce medical marijuana. The firm is based in West Haven. The other companies are in Portland, Simsbury and Watertown.

So does that leave Westport high and dry?

blog - medical marijuanaLast November, the Planning & Zoning Commission imposed a year-long moratorium on dispensaries in Westport. That would give members time to study and understand state rules and statutes.

This Monday (February 3, 6 p.m., Town Hall room 201), the P&Z’s medical marijuana sub-committee holds its 1st public meeting about the issue.

There was virtually no interest — or debate — when the P&Z voted for the moratorium. Local politicians have expressed surprise at the lack of feedback prior to the upcoming meeting too.

Does that mean no one cares if there is a medical marijuana dispensary in Westport? Is everyone delighted that sufferers of a variety of diseases can finally find relief? Or does everyone simply expect the P&Z to say “No way in this town!”

Does it mean this is a non-issue? Or that no one is paying attention?

There are many factors to consider, from possible dispensary locations and tax revenues to the types of businesses we encourage and discourage.

With or without public input, the P&Z subcommittee starts hashing out all those questions on Monday.