Christi Kekich said her passion for medical cannabis grew after reading online that families would relocate to states where it was legalized to get their medical card. In 2018, she and Demetrios Kafouros co-founded GreenLabs in Fells Point in Southeast Baltimore. The couple are also business partners.
Kekich and Kafouros serve as chief operating officer and CEO, respectively. Like any business owner, she said she was scared in the beginning because she was opening a new business in a new industry in Maryland. But it was all worth it — particularly after winning Best Dispensary this year and being a runner-up last year. In addition, it’s been fulfilling to watch the dispensary improve the quality of people’s lives, she said.
“Nothing worth having in life is ever easy and it takes a lot of hard work to build not just a new business but a new business in a new industry. It took many long days and sleepless nights to get here and many more to keep things going,” she said.
Kekich previously worked in the trade show industry. Kafouros owned All Stars Sports Bar on Eutaw Street in Baltimore, which has since shut down. Family and friends looked askance at the couple for wanting to launch GreenLabs because most people didn’t know medical cannabis was legal, Kekich said.
“After they saw how much thought, care and hard work we put into the dispensary, they knew we could make it happen,” she said.
On average, about 80 people per day frequent the 2,200-square-foot brick building on Eastern Avenue, one of the main arteries of the neighborhood. While the store is busy throughout the weekend, weekday peak hours are from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Products include vapes, cannabis concentrates, topicals and tinctures.
“I could never do it alone, so credit has to be given to my staff. Without my team, GreenLabs would not be what it is and their customer service and knowledge for cannabis really sets us apart,” Kekich said.
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There are more than 90 dispensaries statewide, and 10 in Baltimore, according to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.
Isabelle Gold, 23, is dealing with anxiety, depression and chronic pain. Her life changed a year ago after getting her medical cannabis card, she said.
“I love the fact that I can do it now in a legal way, and be in the comfort of my own home and knowing that it is my medicine. It’s a much better feeling all around,” she said.
She hopes that people are more open-minded about medical cannabis because of its benefits, she said.
“It’s genuinely a medicine, and I wish people could understand that more. ... My dad had cancer, and I watched how much it helped him. I watched how much it helped other people,” she said.
Paige Kelly, who handles public relations for GreenLabs, is also a patient who uses medical cannabis on a daily basis for irritable bowel syndrome, depression and anxiety.
“I know a lot of the staff here do a really good job here at learning what’s new in the industry,” she said.