Medical cannabis dispensary planned
North Point Boulevard site to open this fall
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.”
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.
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.
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.