Dr. Chanda Macias doesn’t have a one-of-a-kind story.
Right now it’s a one-of-146 kind of a story and come November she hopes it’s a one-in-six kind of story.
Macias, the owner and general manager of the National Holistic Healing Center Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Washington, D.C., is one of 146 applicants for the six alternative treatment center (ATC) licenses the New Jersey Department of Health will award in November.
If her Ilera Holistic Healthcare is named one of the licenses, it will deepen her connection to the Garden State.
Macias lived in the state for five years, owns a second home here and was awarded an MBA in supply chain management from Rutgers University.
What attracted Macias to enter this round of applications were the growth and potential of the New Jersey medicinal marijuana program under Governor Phil Murphy.
“The program changes made it very attractive to healthcare professionals to come in and treat the patients,” says Macias, who has a Ph.D. from Howard University with a concentration in cell biology.
Specifically, Macias is excited about the proposed changes under Executive Order 6 that will allow for increased strains, higher levels of THC and new products.
“For me as a doctor and a biomedical researcher, I know that THC is necessary in stimulating the endocannabinoids system, and having limitations on how much THC could be available to a patient was restricting their access to adequate healthcare,” says Macias, who will be the headline speaker Tuesday at CannaGather NJ’s monthly event in Jersey City.
Macias, who is also a marketing leader for Women Grow, is an advocate for the inclusion of women and minorities in the cannabis industry and is encouraged by the draft of state legislation that would mandate 25 percent minority ownership in licensed businesses. In her view, that should be accomplished two ways: First, at least a quarter of the businesses should be minority owned, and second, majority-owned businesses need to have minority participation.
“Ideally, it should be a combination of the two,” she says. “So I think that is a fair depiction of what it should look like in the future. A combination of both programs – diversity programs within majority operations, and then still a number of minority- and women-owned licenses set aside to make sure we’re being inclusive of everyone in this industry.”
If she had the chance to tell state legislators what to include in a bill, topping her wish list would be making it easier for people to access medical marijuana – even if that means getting it through adult-use dispensaries.
“I think it should be open for the person to decide if medical or adult-use of marijuana is an option they want to explore,” she says. “I think that there should be local laws in place to protect patients’ privacy. I know there’s HIPAA, but there’s also privacy issues for the patient because they don’t want the stigma of treating themselves with marijuana.
“That stigma is what’s keeping patients from getting the health care benefits that they truly need. I think about patients that are plagued with cancer or multiple sclerosis that they will not use cannabis because they feel like it is wrong because of the stigma attached to it.”
Macias sees that hesitancy in Washington and it’s a reason she sees the benefits of adult-use authorization.
“Right now, I have a lot of patients that want to enter the program but they’re hesitant because you don’t want to be labeled as a medical marijuana patient,” she says. “They don’t know what type of stipulations come with that title or holding the card. So you can imagine in a place like Washington, D.C., where jobs are federally regulated and there’s a big federal government population, they’re afraid of entering that market because they don’t know if they’ll ever get a background check and then having a medical marijuana card will be an issue.
“But with adult usage, it keeps the privacy of the patient, so that they don’t have to disclose going to the doctor for the certification.
“I believe that it would open up a whole ‘nother way to treat patients in their conditions and give them an improved quality of life.”