You may not realize it, but 2018 is the year medical marijuana comes to Carroll County.
In many ways, it is already here. Officially re-dubbed medical “cannabis” in 2015, the seeds planted by the Maryland General Assembly when it first approved medical herb in 2013 finally sprouted in 2017 in Carroll County, with one of the state’s 15 licensed cannabis growing facilities starting operations in Taneytown.
Two medical cannabis dispensaries, meanwhile, are planned in the Westminster area, even though they remain in the planning phase. If and when they open, qualified medical patients will be able to purchase cannabis products at those two locations — assuming they know it’s an option.
“It’s still not common knowledge to a lot of people that Maryland has medical cannabis,” said Dr. John Wah. “I still run into people today, because I wear a lot of my medical cannabis shirts, they don’t realize that it’s out there and that it’s available.”
Wah sees patients at his Maryland Cannabis Physicians office off Poole Road in Westminster, where, if their condition and medical records indicate a need for it and if they are registered through the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, he can write them a recommendation for medical cannabis. This could be for conditions ranging from nausea to chronic pain to PTSD or, “any condition that is severe, for which other medical treatments have been ineffective, and if the symptoms ‘reasonably can be expected to be relieved’ by the medical use of Cannabis,” as per the commission.
When Wah first spoke with the Times in April 2017, he was seeing between six and 10 patients per day, many of them optimistic that they would soon be able to take Wah’s recommendations to a dispensary and purchase cannabis.
“We expect cannabis to be in the hands of patients by the end of the summer,” Dr. Paul Davies, chairman of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission said at the time.
It didn’t work out that way.
“There was a lot of continued of delays and there was a big scare with a lawsuit from one of the potential grower licenses,” Wah said. “We saw there were less people calling in and setting appointments because they were, rightly so, worried things were never going to happen.”
But that changed in early December, when the first dispensaries opened their doors in Maryland.
“The big kind of letdown was that it was only two dispensaries and they were both kind of overloaded and understocked,” Wah said. “Now things are becoming a little smoother, there is more cannabis product and patients are having easier access to it.”
According to the Medical Cannabis Commission website, there were 22 medical cannabis dispensaries operating in Maryland as of Dec. 19, but none, as of yet, in Carroll County.
“The closest places for people in the Westminster, Carroll County area are going to be in Rockville and Frederick,” Wah said. “We have been sending most people, just because of the location, to Frederick, which is the Wellness institute of Maryland. And then we have also been sending them to, Cannabis LLC, also know as Potomac Holistics, and that is in Rockville.”
The growing facility in Taneytown, Grassroots, also known as Maryland Compassionate Care and Wellness LLC, is currently growing cannabis and will be processing it into various cannabis products for sale at dispensaries, according to partner Andrew Cohen, but it is not a dispensary itself, which requires a different type of license.
But there are two ventures that were awarded the dispensary licenses in Carroll County: My Bond LLC and DLD Enterprises Inc.
DLD Enterprises is currently seeking a rezoning approval from the Westminster Planning and Zoning Commission for a dispensary that would be located at 700 Corporate Center Court, part of an office park located near Westminster City Pond but accessible from northbound Md. 97. The city passed an ordinance in November 2016 in response to state medical cannabis law that established a zoning overlay district for cannabis businesses, William Mackey, Westminster director of community planning and development previously told the Times.
Carroll County Breaking News
The ordinance requires a public hearing on the zoning change for any dispensary seeking to operate within the overlay district, a hearing for DLD Enterprises was held on Dec. 14, according to Mackey, although a decision was not reached that evening.
“The Commission held the record open until Dec. 21, 2017, in order to receive additional public input in writing,” he wrote in an email. “The Commission is scheduled to meet again on Jan. 11, 2018, to deliberate on the proposal.”
Ron Bond, a partner in MyBond, told the Times through a LinkedIn message in late October that the MyBond dispensary was planned for the 140 Village Shopping Center in Westminster, but a request for a zoning change at that location has yet to come up before the Westminster Planning and Zoning Commission and Bond did not respond further inquiries by 6 p.m. Jan. 3.
So a qualified patient can, in theory, see Wah right now and drive and buy cannabis that same day — it just takes a trip outside the county, at least for the time being
“It’s taken a huge weight off our shoulders because we were having to say the same thing over and over again: ‘They’re going to open soon. Be patient, We’re anxious about it,’ ” Wah said. “It’s really nice to finally tell people that day, you can go to a dispensary.”
The dispensaries will eventually open in Carroll County, Wah said, and when they do he believes they will relieve much of the stigma surrounding the plant and normalize its use in medicine.
“I think this year, 2018 is going to be the year that the majority of people realize this is an option,” he said. “It’s going to be less taboo.”