At a quarter to 5 Monday evening, a line of seven people stretched down the sidewalk in front of the frosted-glass door to 700–K Corporate Center Court, in Westminster. Across the parking lot, three people in black T-shirts stood two step ladders in front of an Airstream Trailer, its top painted a matte grey and much of the rest customized with a photorealistic wall of lush green leaves.
Slowly, the trio raised a sign to the top of the trailer, with white font on a gray field reading “Herbology.”
The frosted door opened and a young woman called out to those in the line: “If you want to register with us, please do so, so that Monday will be a little easier for you. You just need to give your patient card or certification along with your driver’s license to the staff up front, and of course fill, out your intake form. Come on in!”
This was an open house at Carroll County’s first medical cannabis dispensary, Herbology, which will open for business on July 15, a date that has been a long time coming.
The Maryland General Assembly first approved medical cannabis in 2013, but it was 2017 before Grassroots Cannabis, one of 15 cannabis growing facilities in Maryland, opened in Taneytown. Cannabis dispensaries, where qualified patients can actually purchase cannabis, are limited to two per state senatorial district, and the two licenses for Carroll County were announced back in 2016.
One of those licenses was awarded to Diane Davison, owner of Herbology, who has spent the past three years working toward meeting regulations in order to actually open her facility.
On Monday, she arrived in the clean, brightly lit lobby of the dispensary shortly before the open house was scheduled to start.
“It feels wonderful. Almost surreal, like it’s not really happening,” she said. “There’s been, you know, a huge gap here in Carroll County and they’ve been very vocal about it. And I understand — I wish this was opened a year ago.”
Dispensaries in other jurisdictions were open a year ago, and many card-carrying medical cannabis patients in Carroll had been traveling to those more distant facilities in the intervening months.
“Actually having something this close to us is a godsend,” said Sadie Roth, of Hampstead, who had been traveling to Baltimore or Reisterstown since becoming a medical cannabis patient to help manager her fibromyalgia and arthritis. “I can get up in the morning like without my whole body hurting. At nighttime, I can go to sleep.”
For Larry Ryan, who lives near Roth in Hampstead and came with her to the open house, medical cannabis has provided an escape from the side effects of medications he previously used to manage post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.
“I was probably among the first 100 people in the program, of course there was nowhere to go at that time,” Ryan said. “I remember the first dispensary opened in December and we went down to Rockville. It was like, I actually cried, I hate to say it, because you can finally do this and not have to worry about being arrested. It was like a religious experience.”
Roth and Ryan both hope to become regulars at Herbology once it opens Monday.
And after it opens, only those with a medical cannabis card will be allowed to enter Herbology’s inner sanctum, where cannabis flower and extracts of varying compositions will be on display, served by herbologists ready to answer patient questions. But those who are interested in becoming a patient will be able to come in to the dispensary waiting room, which features soft couches, posters explaining the various cannabinoid compounds and a view into the sanctum, according to Candace Weitzman, regional operations manager for Herbology.
“Luckily with the state of Maryland, you can come in as a visitor, you can sign yourself in,” she said. “If they are looking to get help registering with the state and they haven’t gotten to that portion, they’re more than welcome to come through our doors, sit in our waiting room if they sign in and talk with one of our herbologists and they can help set them up through the state.”
But Herbology expects to see quite a few of the already registered patients in Carroll County beginning Monday, with a 10:30 a.m. ribbon-cutting, according to Ian Gibbs, marketing outreach manager.
“I believe there are 6,000 patients total in Carroll County. I think that we’re probably going to see about 75% of those,” he said. “Every other dispensary is generally, I’m gonna say, about 30 to 40 minutes away. So this is going to be a nice centralized location. I’m assuming we’ll see 80, 90 patients a day.”
Ivy Allgeier, of Westminster, will be one of those patients.
“I’ve had to go into Baltimore because we don’t have anything here,” she said. “It makes it way more convenient.”
Allgeier has found medical cannabis to be an important, less noxious tool for dealing with lupus — “I find I’m very medication sensitive,” she said — and was excited to tour the facility Monday in anticipation of finding relief closer to home.
“It’s helped me manage pain, it’s helped me manage anxiety. And I can do it when I need it and not when I don’t need it,” she said. “For me it’s a it’s a win-win.”