Med­i­cal cannabis dis­pen­sary to open in Me­chan­icsville

No grow­ers ap­proved yet in South­ern Mary­land, but one pro­ces­sor OK’d in Charles

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By DANDAN ZOU dzou@somd­news.com

St. Mary’s first med­i­cal cannabis dis­pen­sary, South­ern Mary­land Re­lief, is aim­ing to open its doors to pa­tients in Septem­ber.

Lo­cated in Me­chan­icsville, the com­pany is one of 102 com­pa­nies pre-ap­proved by the Mary­land Med­i­cal Cannabis Com­mis­sion to dis­pense med­i­cal mar­i­juana, which was le­gal­ized more than four years ago in the state.

The dis­pen­sary is still un­der con­struc­tion. But the stor­age room is largely in shape — it’s a vault built with four walls of 4-inchthick solid con­crete and can only be en­tered by us­ing a pass­word.

“You are not get­ting in this,” the com­pany’s pres­i­dent, Char­lie Mat­tingly, said, not­ing se­cu­rity is a high pri­or­ity for his dis­pen­sary.

Once op­er­a­tional, the store will be mon­i­tored by 60 cam­eras 24/7,

cov­er­ing ev­ery inch of the 2,400-square-foot store, watch­ing em­ploy­ees as well as cus­tomers, Mat­tingly said. Dur­ing open busi­ness hours, three se­cu­rity guards will be work­ing on site.

“Ev­ery door will have an ac­cess card,” Mat­tingly said. The stock of med­i­cal mar­i­juana “is very much tracked to the gram.”

In ad­di­tion to the se­cu­rity fea­tures, Mat­tingly said it’s next to im­pos­si­ble to abuse the sys­tem the way it’s set up by the state.

In Mary­land, a pa­tient must be reg­is­tered with the state Med­i­cal Cannabis Com­mis­sion to pur­chase any prod­uct. A pa­tient can use ei­ther an ID card is­sued by the com­mis­sion, or a govern­ment-is­sued ID to pur­chase med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

With ei­ther ID, Mat­tingly said his store will be able to track the pa­tient’s pur­chase his­tory in an on­line sys­tem shared by all dis­pen­saries statewide.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­mis­sion, a pa­tient can buy no more than 120 grams, or about 4 ounces, of dried flower at one time. The max­i­mum amount of THC in an ex­tract a pa­tient can pur­chase in a month is 36 grams. THC is the chem­i­cal com­pound in cannabis that pro­duces a high.

South­ern Mary­land Re­lief gave pre­sen­ta­tions at lo­cal li­braries in St. Mary’s in the past month, and has three more ses­sions planned for Charles County’s li­braries in July.

“We are trans­par­ent with every­thing we are do­ing,” Mat­tingly said. “All we are do­ing is to pro­vide safe ac­cess to this.”

The pur­pose of the com­mu­nity outreach ef­forts is to pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion for the pub­lic, said Peggy Daniel­son of La Plata, Mat­tingly’s busi­ness part­ner and vice pres­i­dent of the dis­pen­sary.

Each li­brary ses­sion at­tracted up to 40 peo­ple, she said. In ad­di­tion, she re­ceives about five mes­sages ev­ery day on Face­book for in­quires and ques­tions.

Vanessa Long of Hol­ly­wood went to one of the pre­sen­ta­tions and said she can’t wait for the dis­pen­sar y to open.

Long said she was cured of hep­ati­tis C last week. But the med­i­ca­tion she got for treat­ing it made her sick.

“The med­i­ca­tion made me feel ter­ri­ble,” she said. “The pot helped me deal with the side ef­fects of the med­i­ca­tion” and her chronic anx­i­ety.

Be­fore the dis­pen­saries open, Long said she got mar­i­juana for her con­di­tions “off the street.”

With her reg­is­tra­tion com­pleted, Long said she is “ex­tremely ex­cited” and “just wait­ing.”

Daniel­son said she first re­searched med­i­cal cannabis be­cause her niece had a rare, neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der called Rett syn­drome.

For Mat­tingly, he said he didn’t be­lieve in med­i­cal cannabis un­til a few years ago.

“Un­til I was 37, I never knew the truth,” the now 43-year-old said.

Be­fore, he was against it and what changed his mind was the sto­ries he heard — the same type of stor y over and over.

A friend of his had colon can­cer, and a fam­ily mem­ber ended up go­ing to an­other state to il­le­gally pur­chase cannabis for him. Now “in­stead of sit­ting on the couch so high on opi­oids,” Mat­tingly said, his friend can go out crab­bing.

“I’m not say­ing it’s cur­ing him, but he’s get­ting his life back,” Mat­tingly said.

An­other friend of his had a tu­mor in her stom­ach. When she was on chemo­ther­apy, she lost her ap­petite and had no strength to fight the dis­ease.

“She lost 70 pounds in four months,” Mat­tingly said. “She found re­lief in cannabis,” and gained her ap­petite back.

“These peo­ple get teared up when they talk about it,” Mat­tingly said.

Dur­ing re­search for their busi­ness, Daniel­son said they heard sto­ries of moth­ers cross­ing state lines to get cannabis for their chil­dren.

Af­ter hear­ing all that, it’s hard not to be a be­liever, she said.

Once peo­ple find the truth about it like he did, Mat­tingly said his dis­pen­sary “will be treated like a Wawa” or other con­ve­nience store by this time next year.

“No mat­ter what, this can­not kill you. You can’t over­dose,” Mat­tingly said. “It’s not go­ing to hurt you.”

With 10 lo­cal in­vestors, Daniel­son and Mat­tingly said they spent about $100,000 on ap­pli­ca­tion, con­sul­ta­tion and trav­el­ing costs to the West Coast for re­search.

Last year, the com­pany also ap­plied for mar­i­juana grow­ing and pro­cess­ing li­censes, but was not se­lected for ei­ther. No St. Mary’s, Calvert or Charles com­pa­nies were ap­proved for grow­ing, although a Charles com­pany, FGM Pro­cess­ing LLC, was ap­proved for pro­cess­ing plants into medic­i­nal prod­ucts.

Mat­tingly said 15 grow­ers and 15 pro­ces­sors are not go­ing to be able to pro­duce enough vol­ume of prod­ucts to meet the need. With a 100-year-old, 26-acre farm in St. Mary’s County, he plans to ap­ply again for both li­censes in 2018 so he could sup­ply the prod­uct for his dis­pen­sar y.

Each state sen­a­to­rial dis­trict is al­lowed for two dis­pen­saries, and John Simp­son of Solomons is the other one who re­ceived the state’s pre-ap­proval.

Simp­son said his dis­pen­sary’s name is go­ing to be Green­wade, and he hopes to open the store by the end of Oc­to­ber. That would be a good time to open, be­cause the first crop is un­likely to be ready un­til then, he said.

The lo­ca­tion of his dis­pen­sary, how­ever, is yet to be de­ter­mined. It may end up be­ing in Calvert or St. Mary’s, as long as it falls within Se­nate Dis­trict 29, he said.

Dur­ing a 2016 Calvert com­mis­sion­ers’ meet­ing, Simp­son said the idea for the com­pany came from a visit to his step­son in Cal­i­for­nia, who got into the med­i­cal mar­i­juana de­liv­ery busi­ness and found it to be lu­cra­tive and self-ful­fill­ing.

Although he was ex­pect­ing some blow­back, the 63-year-old said he was sur­prised that he hasn’t heard any neg­a­tive com­ments yet.

“I’m not ex­pect­ing a wind­fall, but I think it’s go­ing to be prof­itable,” Simp­son said.

The most com­mon ques­tion he got from peo­ple is how they could get signed up and when does the store open, he said.

As each dis­pen­sary is es­tab­lished and li­censed, their lo­ca­tions will be posted on this page of the com­mis­sion’s web­site at www. mmcc.mary­land.gov/Pages/dis­pen­saries.aspx.

STAFF PHOTO BY DANDAN ZOU

St. Mary’s first med­i­cal cannabis dis­pen­sary, South­ern Mary­land Re­lief, aims to open to pa­tients in Septem­ber in Me­chan­icsville.

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