Med­i­cal cannabis dis­pen­sary planned

North Point Boule­vard site to open this fall

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By NI­COLE ROD­MAN nrod­man@ches­pub.com

Charm City Medi­cus has an­nounced plans to open a med­i­cal cannabis dis­pen­sary at 717 North Point Boule­vard across from East­point Mall.

Con­struc­tion will be­gin within the next three weeks, con­clud­ing in late Septem­ber. An open­ing date has not yet been set, but could be some­time in Oc­to­ber or Novem­ber.

Four years of leg­is­la­tion

Dis­pen­saries are be­ing opened across the state, four years af­ter the Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly passed a bill le­gal­iz­ing medic­i­nal cannabis in 2013.

The pro­gram was re­vised with bills passed in 2014 and 2015.

In Septem­ber 2015, the Bal­ti­more County Coun­cil passed zon­ing laws reg­u­lat­ing the place­ment of med­i­cal cannabis dis­pen­saries and grow­ers in Bal­ti­more County. As per that law, dis­pen­saries were limited to busi­ness-zoned dis­tricts. Dis­pen­saries are not al­lowed to be lo­cated within 500 feet of a pub­lic or pri­vate school or within 2,500 feet of an­other dis­pen­sary. Ad­di­tional, a spe­cial ex­cep­tion is re­quired for dis­pen­saries plan­ning to op­er­ate within one of Bal­ti­more County’s 17 Com­mer­cial Re­vi­tal­iza­tion Dis­tricts.

In De­cem­ber 2016, the Mary­land Med­i­cal Cannabis Com­mis­sion re­leased a list of 102 com­pa­nies ap­proved to be­gin sell­ing med­i­cal cannabis, up to two per state se­na­to­rial district. Charm City Medi­cus (along with GreenMart of Mary­land, owned by Cana­dian com­pany CGX Life Sci­ences, which has pur­chased a po­ten­tial dis­pen­sary site at 7458 Ger­man Hill Road) was ap­proved for District 6, which in­cludes Spar­rows Point, Dun­dalk and parts of Es­sex and Rosedale.

Med­i­cal cannabis in the com­mu­nity

Bryan Hill, pres­i­dent and CEO of Charm City Medi­cus, has been in talks with lo­cal of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Bal­ti­more County Coun­cil­man Todd Cran­dell (R-7), state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-6), Berk­shire Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Nora Baublitz and of­fi­cers at Dun­dalk Po­lice Precinct 12, since his com­pany was pre-ap­proved for a li­cense in De­cem­ber.

Hill ap­plied for a li­cense in sev­eral dis­tricts in Bal­ti­more County and City; he was ul­ti­mately ap­proved to open in District 6.

Work­ing with lo­cal of­fi­cials, Hill se­lected a lo­ca­tion for the dis­pen­sary. The lo­ca­tion is in a com­mer­cial area across from East­point Mall, with close ac­cess to high­ways like I- 95 and 695.

One of Hill’s goals com­ing into the com­mu­nity is to put minds at ease and dis­pel mis­con­cep­tions the pub­lic may have about med­i­cal cannabis.

Med­i­cal cannabis (the in­dus­try-pre­ferred term) has been shown in stud­ies to of­fer med­i­cal and ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits for a va­ri­ety of con­di­tions.

Con­di­tions that may be legally treated by med­i­cal cannabis un­der Mary­land law in­clude cachexia (wast­ing syn­drome), se­vere and/or chronic pain, se­vere nau­sea, seizures, se­vere chronic mus­cle spasms, Alzheimer’s dis­ease, can­cer, glau­coma, HIV, AIDS, hep­ati­tis C and post trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

For Hill, the de­sire to aid pa­tients seek­ing re­lief stems from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence.

In 2011, Hill’s fa­ther was di­ag­nosed with esophageal can­cer. He had parts of his esoph­a­gus and stom­ach re­moved and un­der­went rounds of chemo­ther­apy. He has since suf­fered from a num­ber of other rare types of can­cer.

“The first few years of treat­ment, they were pump- ing him full of ev­ery opi­oid,” Hill re­called. “It was to the point where he re­ally had no qual­ity of life.”

That changed when med­i­cal cannabis laws were passed in Ari­zona, where Hill’s par­ents re­side.

“He be­gan us­ing cannabis prod­ucts, and he is ba­si­cally off all the opi­oids,” Hill said.

See­ing this dra­matic im­prove­ment in his own fa­ther, Hill be­came in­ter­ested in bring­ing the pro­gram to pa­tients here in Mary­land.

His aim, he noted, is to “feel like I’m con­tribut­ing back to so­ci­ety in some way,” by as­sist­ing pa­tients and fam­i­lies like his own.

Hill sees med­i­cal cannabis as a way to treat chronic pain and other con­di­tions with­out re­sort­ing to opi­oids.

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol, opi­oid over­doses are re­spon­si­ble for 91 deaths per day across the United States. More than one mil­lion peo­ple died of opi­oid over­doses be­tween 2010 and 2015.

Stud­ies have shown that opi­oid over­dose deaths have de­creased by as much as 25 per­cent in states where med­i­cal cannabis laws have been en­acted.

Ed­u­cat­ing pa­tients and the com­mu­nity

There are many mis­con­cep­tions about med­i­cal cannabis, says Hill, and he is seek­ing to ed­u­cate pa­tients and the com­mu­nity.

The North Point Boule- vard dis­pen­sary will be a med­i­cal clinic, staffed with a 25-year vet­eran phar­ma­cist, who also serves as an ad­junct at the Univer­sity of Mary­land Med­i­cal School, as a clin­i­cal di­rec­tor. Hill is look­ing to fill other po­si­tions with phar­macy stu­dents.

The dis­pen­sary will of­fer dif­fer­ent types of cannabis prod­uct, in­clud­ing oils, top­i­cal lo­tions, tinc­tures and the flower it­self. Ed­i­ble prod­ucts are not le­gal in Mary­land.

Many of the cannabis prod­ucts are avail­able with­out THC — the psy­choac­tive in­gre­di­ent in cannabis — al­low­ing pa­tients to gain the medic­i­nal ben­e­fits with the psy­choac­tive ef­fects (the “high”).

The dis­pen­sary will also sell some ad­min­is­tra­tion meth­ods, though there will be, by law, no ad­min­is­tra­tion of med­i­cal cannabis on or near the premises.

In fact, Hill noted, pa­tients will be re­quired to at­tend an ed­u­ca­tional ses­sion and sign a doc­u­ment at­test­ing that they un­der­stand the law. Cannabis is not to be used in the clinic, or in pub­lic at all, may not be used while driv­ing or op­er­at­ing heavy ma­chin­ery, may not be sold or used by any­one other than the pa­tient, etc.

By law, pa­tients are limited to four ounces of cannabis flower or 36 grams of pro­cessed cannabis prod­uct per month.

Hill also notes that the dis­pen­sary will not op­er­ate like a methadone clinic.

For one, cannabis is not used on the site. The clinic will not con­done recre­ational use. The state of Mary­land will track both doc­tors and pa­tients with the aim of pre­vent­ing abuse of the sys­tem.

Ad­di­tion­ally, med­i­cal cannabis grow­ers, pro­ces­sors and dis­pen­saries re­ceive no fed­eral, state or lo­cal funds. The dis­pen­sary does not ac­cept in­sur­ance of any kind, Hill noted, “so you’re not go­ing to have that kind of el­e­ment that you would at a methadone clinic.”

Se­cu­rity con­cerns

Hill also un­der­stands the se­cu­rity con­cerns that res­i­dents may have and is work­ing to ad­dress such con­cerns.

The dis­pen­sary will be se­cured, mean­ing that pa­tients will have to buzz in for en­try into the wait­ing room. Staffers will bring pa­tients back into a dis­pens­ing area, se­cured with bio­met­ric fea­tures.

In the dis­pens­ing area, pa­tients will be coun­seled on types of prod­ucts, dosages and us­age. Pa­tients will be asked to keep jour­nals in or­der to track their progress.

All prod­ucts, Hill noted, “are stored in a se­cured room within the fa­cil­ity dur­ing non-work­ing hours.”

The fa­cil­ity will in­clude an ad­vanced se­cu­rity sys­tem and, dur­ing work­ing hours, an armed guard will be on premises.

While dis­pen­saries face hur­dles us­ing banks, since med­i­cal cannabis is still il­le­gal fed­er­ally, Hill ex­plained that there are com­puter ap­pli­ca­tions that al­low the busi­ness to ac­cept non-cash pay­ment meth­ods, cut­ting down on the amount of cash at the site.

Hill hopes to bring the com­mu­nity in to see for them­selves as the busi­ness is built.

“We want to bring peo­ple in, be­cause I think see­ing is be­liev­ing,” he said.

“I think if we can show peo­ple what it’s about,” he said, “if we can ask them to open their mind a lit­tle bit, ul­ti­mately it’s pos­i­tive for the pa­tients.”

Lo­cal of­fi­cials re­act

In com­ments to the Ea­gle, Berk­shire Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Nora Baublitz praised Hill for his trans­parency and “com­mu­ni­ity in­volve­ment.”

“He ap­proached us months ago,” she said, not­ing that she helped him se­lect a suit­able site.

“The lo­ca­tion was per­fect as far as I’m con­cerned,” she said, not­ing that it is not next to homes or schools and not in the heart of the neigh­bor­hood.

For her part, Baublitz is not wor­ried about hav­ing the dis­pen­sary in her neigh­bor­hood.

“I per­son­ally think there’s a need for them,” she said.

While state Sen. Salling does not agree with the le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana for recre­ational pur­poses, he does ac­cept that cannabis does have some medic­i­nal ben­e­fits.

Re­gard­ing the planned site, he in­di­cated that he would have to study the lo­ca­tion, though he did ex­press some con­cern re­gard­ing the prox­im­ity of homes nearby.

For his part, Del. Ric Met­z­gar (R-6) ex­pressed strong reser­va­tions re­gard­ing med­i­cal cannabis and a dis­pen­sary in Dun­dalk (he is “strongly op­posed” to recre­ational use).

“The jury for me is still out,” he said of med­i­cal cannabis, not­ing that it is still not le­gal on the fed­eral level.

He also raised sev­eral con­cerns re­gard­ing the dis­pen­sary, in­clud­ing safety and how it will be mon­i­tored.

“I’m still wait­ing for the FDA to give their ap­proval,” he said, not­ing that “the jury’s still out un­til it gets fi­nal ap­proval.”

The Ea­gle was un­able to ob­tain com­ment from Bal­ti­more County Coun­cil­man Todd Cran­dell by press time.

More in­for­ma­tion

For more in­for­ma­tion on Mary­land’s med­i­cal cannabis pro­gram, or to reg­is­ter for a pa­tient iden­ti­fi­ca­tion num­ber, visit the Mary­land Med­i­cal Cannabis Com­mis­sion at mmcc.mary­land.gov.

Prospec­tive pa­tients must reg­is­ter on­line and then visit a cer­ti­fy­ing physi­cian.

COUR­TESY CHARM CITY MEDI­CUS

A con­cept draw­ing of the in­te­rior of Charm City Medi­cus, com­ing to North Point Boule­vard in the fall.

COUR­TESY CHARM CITY MEDI­CUS The ex­te­rior of Charm City Medi­cus, a med­i­cal cannabis dis­pen­sary planned for North Point Boule­vard.

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