Medical marijuana businesses are growing in part of the Tri-State region.
Companies in Maryland and Pennsylvania report increasing business under the recently enacted medical cannabis procedures in those states. Meanwhile, in West Virginia, a medical marijuana law is on the books, but it has yet to be implemented.
Some cannabis-related companies with ties to the region are growing in other ways, too.
For example, Arizona-based Harvest Inc. runs medical cannabis operations in nine states, including a cannabis-growing facility in Hancock. Earlier this month the company was listed and began trading on the Canadian Securities Exchange under the symbol “HARV.”
“Our continued expansion through acquisition of quality assets and winning new licenses will primarily be focused in the United States,” Ben Kimbro, a spokesman for Harvest, wrote in an email. “There are no immediate plans for Harvest Health & Recreation Inc. to expand into operations in Canada.”
Recreational marijuana became legal in Canada last month.
Maryland’s medical marijuana codes, among other things, regulate the growers who cultivate cannabis; the processors who turn it into oils, creams and other products; and the dispensaries where patients with prescriptions can buy the products.
While there are dispensaries in Allegany and Frederick counties, no dispensaries are open yet in Washington County. But Maryland Health and Wellness Center Inc. plans to start one in a former bank building on Wesel Boulevard, according to a building permit application.
Across Maryland, medical cannabis dispensary sales have risen each of the past 10 months, from $1.8 million in December, when the state launched the program, to $11.6 million in September, the latest month for which statistics are available, according to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.
Sales totaled $68.8 million for that time period.
The number of medical marijuana transactions jumped from 26,504 in December to 265,297 in September, again showing an increase every month.
At Kind Therapeutics, a growing and processing operation in Hagerstown, Director of Operations Timothy Shaw said recently that Maryland “did a great job” of rolling out its medical cannabis program.
“It’s pretty much on pace,” he said of Kind’s business. “The patient count continues to grow. The availability continues to get better.”
Darrell Carrington, director of the medical cannabis division for Greenwill Consulting Group, expects that the number of registered medical marijuana patients in Maryland will top 60,000 by year’s end and reach 100,000 by the end of 2019.
There are many strains of cannabis with many different qualities. As the science around medical cannabis advances, Carrington said, patients are finding that specific strains that are most effective for their specific conditions.
Health care providers can recommend that patients receive cannabis for a variety of conditions, from anorexia and glaucoma to seizures and nausea. Most of those patients have been prescribed forms of medical cannabis for chronic pain, although patients might have been recommended based on more than one condition, according to the Maryland Cannabis Commission.
In Pennsylvania, patients from across the commonwealth have visited Organic Remedies’ medical marijuana dispensary in Chambersburg, Pa. Organic Remedies also has a sister business in Enola, Pa.
“We’re pulling people from Philadelphia, Williamsport (Pa.), State College and Altoona,” John Toth, chief operating officer, told Herald-Mail Media earlier this year.
Nate Wardle, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, reported in an email last week that the commonwealth has recorded more than 150,000 “patient dispensations,” or medical marijuana transactions, since the program became operational. More than 87,000 patients have registered, he wrote, and the state has issued nearly 57,000 patient certifications.
Close to 10,000 caregivers are registered with the program, and nearly 900 physicians have been approved as practitioners, according to Wardle.
As in Maryland, a statewide computer system tracks how much cannabis a patient obtains each month.
In the earlier interview, Toth said he commonly sees patients with doctor prescriptions related to neuropathies, chronic pain and damage to nervous tissues. He reports several have requested help to wean themselves off prescription pain medications.
In West Virginia, a medical marijuana program exists on paper, although it’s not up and working yet. The Bureau for Public Health reports that it is “in the early stages of the development of the program.”
The Medical Cannabis Act was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice in 2017. The Bureau for Public Health website states that the bureau “is in the process of drafting temporary rules that are needed to implement the Act. Those temporary rules will explain the program’s operation, including how applications are to be submitted by growers/processors, dispensaries, patients and caregivers and physicians.”
Under the law, the bureau cannot issue the patient and caregiver identification cards needed to obtain medical cannabis until July 1, 2019.
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