BILLINGS — There’s a new cannabis concierge service in Billings, and it's pairing pain-management patients with doctors who prescribe medical marijuana cards. Advocates say that makes it less intimidating to walk through the doors of a medical marijuana shop to try the green alternative.
Billings Alternative Wellness is where patients can go in Billings to see a doctor to get and maintain a medical marijuana card. With word of theSt. Vincent Healthcare Pain Center closing in January, the doctors are busy.
“We’re already seeing a little bit of an influx of those patients looking for some other options to treat their chronic pain conditions,” says Elizabeth Pincolini, owner of Billings Alternative Wellness.
“I have a couple different progressive types of hereditary neuropathies and they affect me inside and out, head to toe,” says Nicci Love, medical marijuana pain patient cardholder.
Love is a former patient of the pain center in Billings who relied on a strict schedule of oxycodone.
“I got onto opiates and was on opiates for seven years,” says Love.
Then she relied on anti-nausea medication to counteract the side effects. She believes medical marijuana saved her life.
“The opiates made me incredibly sick all the time. I was dropping weight really rapidly no matter what I tried, and it got to the point that it was literally killing me. I had to choose life at one point, so I told my family and my doctors that opiates were no longer an option and I was going to try to figure out something else,” says Love.
The solution was cannabis. She says it worked so well her family became believers, recently opening a medical marijuana shop in Billings.
She recommended terpenes, an essential oil from the cannabis plant, as one product that helped her.
“Terpenes help a lot, get on the terpene train,” encourages Love. “Here’s a list of them and specifically with the shaking and muscle spasms, the caryophyllene helps me a lot with that and that also helps with pain and mood stabilizing.”
Each treatment has a specific use, something many don’t know, and advice that doesn’t come with a medical marijuana card, as doctors here don’t dose marijuana.
“Cannabis is really a self-titrating drug, meaning people who use it dose themselves,” says Pincolini.
“A lot of people don't know how to use it, and they think they can only smoke and they have to be high all day, and that’s just not the case,” says Cana of Eden owner Tina Smith.
Cana of Eden sells CBD, and Tina says, when paired properly with THC, it counters the high effect that comes with marijuana use. Its advice like this the concierge service offers.
“People are just looking for alternatives. They are definitely a little nervous,” says Pincolini.
It's an alternative for patients with the looming closure of the St. Vincent Pain Center.
“I think a lot of them are counting on their primary doctors to come through, so we’ll have to see how it plays out, but I think we just want to be here for them,” says Pincolini.
The pain center is set to close Jan. 26.
Pincolini says there are about 16,000 medical marijuana cardholders in Montana currently. She says the number dropped from a high of about 40,000 when recreational use became legal in 2021. Cardholders, however, do have benefits, such as tax savings and access to more potent products, but they must have a qualifying condition such as cancer, aids, HIV, muscle spasms, glaucoma, wasting syndrome, neuropathy, crohn's disease, epilepsy, nausea, PTSD, chronic pain and hospice.