Mary­lan­ders

De­mand eclipses sup­plies in first days of Mary­land pro­gram

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY FENIT NIRAPPIL, AARON GREGG AND RACHEL SIEGEL

want­ing to legally buy med­i­cal mar­i­juana in the first week of the state’s pro­gram are find­ing dis­pen­saries’ sup­plies run­ning short.

Mary­lan­ders in­ter­ested in buy­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana days af­ter the launch of a state-sanc­tioned pro­gram may al­ready be out of luck.

Five of seven li­censed dis­pen­saries that have opened since Fri­day said they have com­pletely or al­most run out of flower — the raw part of the mar­i­juana plant that is smoked or va­por­ized — and have limited sup­plies of other cannabis prod­ucts. The other two stores are lim­it­ing sales to a small group of pre­reg­is­tered pa­tients.

Kan­navis, in Fred­er­ick County, sold out of flower Satur­day, its first day in busi­ness, but still has pre-filled car­tridges that can be at­tached to va­por­iz­ing pens. Owner Jane Klink said she was hop­ing for ad­di­tional mar­i­juana ship­ments be­fore this week­end and was keep­ing pa­tients up­dated through the store’s Face­book page, web­site and email list.

“We don’t have con­fir­ma­tion of any­thing at this point,” Klink said.

The slow start was ex­pected by in­dus­try players and reg­u­la­tors. Ad­vo­cates are not sound­ing

alarms yet but ac­knowl­edged the short­ages can be frus­trat­ing for pa­tients who have waited nearly five years since the first med­i­cal­mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion bill was signed into law.

“There have been short­ages in other states just be­cause the de­mand is so over­whelm­ing, es­pe­cially ini­tially,” said Kate Bell, a lawyer for the Mar­i­juana Pol­icy Project.

Jake Van Winger­den, who leads a group of grow­ers and pro­ces­sors as pres­i­dent of the Mary­land Whole­sale Med­i­cal Cannabis Trade As­so­ci­a­tion, said it will take 60 to 90 days be­fore Mary­land’s le­gal cannabis grow­ers can ramp up to fully meet sup­ply.

So far, only Cu­rio Well­ness, one of the first grow­ers to re­ceive its li­cense, has shipped mar­i­juana to re­tail sellers, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­views with dis­pen­sary own­ers. A spokes­woman for For­wardGro, the first cul­ti­va­tor li­censed in Mary­land, said it de­liv­ered drugs to pro­ces­sors last month and ex­pects to send flower di­rectly to dis­pen­saries in the next week. Van Winger­den and an­other grower, Green Leaf Med­i­cal of Fred­er­ick County, said they plan to start ship­ments in Jan­uary.

“I think ev­ery­body would like the sup­ply chain to be com­pletely full right away, but that’s not re­al­is­tic when you’re grow­ing a crop,” Van Winger­den said. “We have a very big pipe­line behind it. . . . What you’re see­ing now is just the tip of ice­berg.”

Christopher Gar­rett, a spokesman for the Mary­land Med­i­cal Cannabis Com­mis­sion, said that reg­u­la­tors ex­pected ini­tial sup­ply is­sues and that dis­pen­saries will build up their in­ven­to­ries in the com­ing months.

“It’s a snow­ball rolling down a hill,” said An­drew Rosen­stein, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of one of four in­de­pen­dent test­ing labs that con­duct qual­ity checks on mar­i­juana be­fore its sold.

To buy med­i­cal mar­i­juana, pa­tients must regis­ter with the state com­mis­sion and re­ceive a rec­om­men­da­tion from a doc­tor or other health-care provider. Nearly 550 health-care providers have signed up to is­sue rec­om­men­da­tions.

Al­le­gany Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana Dis­pen­sary, one of the first two shops to open Fri­day, has served about 150 pa­tients and ex­pected to run out of prod­ucts Wed­nes­day. Most high-de­mand prod­ucts, in­clud­ing tinc­tures and creams, had yet to ar­rive.

“It’s a very tense sit­u­a­tion,” said general man­ager Mark Van Tyne. “It’s a learn­ing curve, and there’s a lot of grow­ing pains go­ing on right now.”

In Mont­gomery County, two dis­pen­saries ran out of flower early this week and were await­ing ship­ments. Po­tomac Holis­tics in Rockville, which made its first sales Fri­day evening, closed tem­po­rar­ily Mon­day and then re­opened Tues­day, stocked with vape pens and tablets. Rise Bethesda had re­ceived a de­liv­ery of vape car­tridges pro­vided by the pro­ces­sor Ch­e­sa­peake Al­ter­na­tives and still had tablets and elixirs from an­other com­pany.

The Penin­sula Al­ter­na­tive Health dis­pen­sary in Wi­comico County and the Well­ness In­sti­tute of Mary­land in Fred­er­ick County still had flower be­cause they were con­duct­ing soft roll­outs, sell­ing only to pa­tients who had signed up with them in ad­vance.

“Ev­ery pa­tient that is reg­is­tered and isn’t be­ing let in is right­fully up­set with us, be­cause they as­sumed they were go­ing to get it first day,” said Michael Klein, who man­ages the Well­ness In­sti­tute. “But they’d be a whole lot more up­set if they had to stand out in the cold only to be turned away.”

Penin­sula Al­ter­na­tive Health was pri­or­i­tiz­ing sales based on the sever­ity of con­di­tions and who signed up first. The dis­pen­sary plans to open its doors to the pub­lic Dec. 19.

“We just didn’t open our doors and have lines of peo­ple wait­ing for 10 hours,” said An­thony Darby, the owner. “We tried to have a very or­ga­nized open­ing.”

The dis­pen­saries that have not yet opened said they are closely watch­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence of oth­ers.

“You don’t al­ways want to be first,” said Mitch Trel­lis, an owner of Rem­edy Columbia in Howard County. “Our busi­ness model is to cu­rate the best medicine from across the state and make that avail­able to our pa­tients. We don’t feel there’s enough medicine out there to be able to do that right now.”

“It’s a learn­ing curve, and there’s a lot of grow­ing pains go­ing on right now.” Mark Van Tyne, general man­ager of Al­le­gany Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana Dis­pen­sary

JAHI CHIKWENDIU/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Clients stand in line for med­i­cal mar­i­juana Fri­day at Po­tomac Holis­tics in Rockville on the dis­pen­sary’s first day of sales. The provider closed tem­po­rar­ily Mon­day amid sup­ply short­ages.

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