by Len Lear
Michele Haines, 78, a world-traveling chef who opened Spring Mill Cafe in Conshohocken 40 years ago, was walking across the street at 4th and South Streets three years ago when she was hit by a car making a right turn. Michele flew through the air, slammed against the ground and suffered severe injuries. For many months she was prescribed extremely powerful painkillers that, not surprisingly, also had equally powerful and unwanted side effects.
“It was almost impossible to sleep,” she said.
On April 17, 2016, however, Gov. Tom Wolf signed Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program into law, making it the 24th state with a comprehensive medical marijuana program. (There are now 33 states where medical marijuana is legal.) The law – Act 16 – protects registered patients and their physicians from civil and criminal penalties and creates a well-regulated system for safe access to medical marijuana. Act 16 went into effect on May 17, 2016, and the first dispensaries began serving patients in April 2018, including Haines.
“It is not perfect, but it is a big improvement,” Haines said. “It does not do away with the pain in my back completely, but I am able to sleep much better, and there are no side effects.”
A major beneficiary of Act 16 has been Ilera Healthcare, a 75-employee firm (including its dispensary) that was born on June 17, 2017, and is housed in a building formerly occupied by the Bank of America at 420 Plymouth Rd., near Germantown Pike, less than a half-mile before the entrance to the Plymouth Meeting Mall.
Ilera is one of just five companies licensed by the state to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana, and it is the only one of the five that is “Pennsylvania conceived and born.” The others were established in other states. (There are several other companies that are licensed to grow and process, but not to dispense, and vice-versa.) Ilera’s product is grown at a facility in Fulton County in the south central part of the state.
“What I always point out is that medical marijuana is medicine, and it must go through the same rigorous regimen and testing as any other medicine before it can be approved for use by the public,” said Oludare Odumosu, Chief Scientific Officer and Executive Vice President for Ilera. “Our product is grown under very strict standards closely regulated by the state, as opposed to the stuff you might buy on the street, which is a crapshoot. The stuff on the street may be laced with something awful, like fentanyl. Our product is medicine, though, which, like any other medicine, is made to treat medical conditions, not to get people high.”
These words were spoken during a recent interview in the company’s boardroom by Odumosu, 35, who has developed all of the scientific formulations for the company. There are now 21 medical conditions that have been approved for medical marijuana as well as more than 1,000 certifying physicians in the state and over 100,000 approved cardholders in the state.
Quite an interesting story in his own right, Odumosu was born and raised in Nigeria. His father is a lawyer and his mother works in civil service. After finishing high school one year early in 2001, Odumosu attended Calvin College, a four-year Christian liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He later earned a master’s degree in epidemiology and a doctorate degree in biochemistry in 2011, both at the Loma Linda School of Medicine near Los Angeles, California.
He then took a job with Iroko Pharmaceuticals at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, working to develop prescription products that would require lower doses to have results that were equally effective for certain medical conditions. He stayed there until 2016.
Odumosu has an athletic physique with clearly defined musculature. He ran track and field in high school and has run “close to 15 half-marathons and full marathons.” He has suffered microfractures of the foot and has had trouble sleeping, but had serious problems using Ambien, a popular prescription sleep medicine.
“I am also a patient because of pain and sleep problems,” he said. “Since I have been using medical marijuana, I get a good night’s sleep and wake up with a clear mind. That did not happen before.”
Odumosu first tried medical marijuana in graduate school.
“I was defending my thesis, and I had not slept for 48 hours. A doctor prescribed Ambien, and I started hallucinating in a bad way. On day three, I went to a dispensary, rolled a joint, took two hits and slept for eight hours. When I awoke, my body felt so nourished … I have to point out that medical marijuana is still federally illegal, but we are a lot closer than we were two years ago to having in legalized in every state in the U.S.”
For more information, call 484-531-4420 or visit ilerahealthcare.com. Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org