Howard County will soon be home to two medical marijuana dispensaries, as the state’s first licensed dispensary locations begin to open their doors.
Remedy Columbia and Greenhouse Wellness in Ellicott City are set to open in the coming weeks to bring residents some of Maryland’s first legal medical marijuana.
Both locations are ready to open as soon as they have received product from marijuana growers; Greenhouse co-owner Gina Dubbé said they hope to receive their first batch in the coming week, and Remedy assistant manager Trent Williams said they hope to open by the end of December.
As two of only 10 dispensaries currently licensed in the state, Greenhouse and Remedy stand to serve a large number of patients. Both companies said they’ve already received numerous calls and visits from people hoping to buy product; there are currently more than 17,000 Maryland consumers registered for medical marijuana, according to data from the state's Medical Marijuana Commission.
At Greenhouse Wellness, co-owners and long-time friends Dubbé and Leslie Apgar are hoping to bring an upscale, personal feel to their dispensary, and to bring medical marijuana into the mainstream.
Dubbé, whose entrepreneurial background includes the launch of the pain reliever TheraPearl, said the two aimed to create a space for patients that resembled a high-end spa, rather than the seedy, rundown shop she said many people have in their minds when they think of marijuana dispensaries.
“We’re thrilled to be changing the face of what medical marijuana dispensaries look like,” said Apgar, who is a licensed physician and owner of the medical spa Pura Vida. “Our patients should feel comfortable and safe coming in here. The last thing they need to be worried about is their environment.”
Dubbé said the two first had the idea to open a dispensary in 2015, after Apgar was approached by another team about serving as a medical director in a possible dispensary. Apgar said they decided to go into the business on their own, and are excited to be a female-owned dispensary.
While neither woman had previous training in medical marijuana practices, the two have spent the last two years researching and learning about the field, Dubbé said. They also passed a competitive application process to be one of the dispensaries located in Howard County’s 12th district; each state legislative district in Maryland is allowed two dispensaries.
Now, the two are ready to help patients — from those suffering from chronic pain and seizures to those undergoing chemotherapy and experiencing post traumatic stress disorder — by bringing them a variety of medical marijuana products, including oils, creams and vaporizers.
Apgar said Greenhouse is focused on smokeless ways to intake medical marijuana to provide a more refined dosage of the drug. Among those ways to ingest marijuana, there are thousands of different possible strains, meaning the ratio between the cannabinoids that are found in marijuana, mainly phytocannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC; and CBD, or cannabidiol.
Greenhouse’s staff, who have been trained in medical uses of cannabis, will work with patients to determine which strain of the drug will best help them depending on their medical state, a process known as strain alignment, Apgar said.
The dispensary is partnering with two in-state growers, Green Leaf Medical in Frederick County and Cureo Cultivation in Baltimore County, to provide patients with a variety of strains for different medical needs.
At Green Leaf, a team of cultivators and doctors with specialties in pharmacology, neurology and agronomy have worked together to produce 36 varieties of strains, said CEO Phil Goldberg.
The growing process at Green Leaf takes place in a 45,000-square-foot facility with four “growing rooms” of plants. With the white, sterile look of a scientific lab, each room is monitored for its temperature and a variety of chemical levels, including pH and carbon dioxide, to help produce the highest-quality plants.
Each plant takes approximately two months to root, vegetate and mature into ready-to-harvest cannabis, Goldberg said. Cultivators monitor the plants, each of which is tagged with its nutrient levels, to determine which groups are harvesting most successfully and to then reproduce those same conditions of nutrients in other batches.
The company has an in-house processing lab to formulate new cannabinoid profiles with different THC to CBD ratios, and work with patients and dispensaries like Greenhouse to determine which strains are most effective for specific symptoms. Much of the information available about the effectiveness of strains comes from patient testimony, Golderberg said, as clinical studies have been limited because of cannabis’ illegality in the past.
Strains like the sweet smelling Pineapple Skunk grow in rows that feel like a small jungle in the Green Leaf growing rooms. Expected to be one of their most popular strains, Pineapple Skunk is reported to increase appetite and help with sleep and anxiety issues, Goldberg said, effects which are caused by the strain’s 14 percent THC level.
Currently, Green Leaf is selling its products to dispensaries for $900 a pound, but Goldberg said as the supply grows he’s hoping to see that price drop to $500 to $600. Dubbé said Greenhouse won’t have an exact price for patients until they receive their first products, but she anticipates it to be between $13 and $19 per gram; the first shipment of product for Greenhouse will come from Cureo.
Dubbé said the science behind the production of cannabis and the increased focus on the medical aspect of the drug is part of what makes her excited and optimistic about entering the new field and helping to elevate it in the public eye.
“[This is] an opportunity to look at something in a new light,” Dubbé said. “There are very few times in a lifetime to help people and change their minds.”