Medical cannabis dispensary to open in Mechanicsville
No growers approved yet in Southern Maryland, but one processor OK’d in Charles
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.
St. Mary’s first medical cannabis dispensary, Southern Maryland Relief, aims to open to patients in September in Mechanicsville.