In Maryland

On average, more than 300 Marylanders a day apply to be medical marijuana patients, according to the program’s leader.

“Every Monday, we come in to 1,000 new applications. … People have really started to take notice of the cannabis program in Maryland,” Joy Strand, executive director of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, said Monday during a program at Hagerstown Community College.

In other states with medical marijuana programs, 2 to 4 percent of the population has wound up being certified as medical marijuana patients, she said. She estimates similar results for Maryland.

“We expect about 200,000 will be our max,” Strand said.

More than 50,600 Maryland patients have been certified since the program started on Dec. 1, she said.

Leadership Washington County presented Monday’s program, which was titled “Maryland Medical Cannabis: One Year Later.”

Strand was one of three panelists. The others were Ben Kimbro, director of public affairs for Harvest Inc., and Dustin Freas, chief development officer for Care Ventures Inc.

Harvest has cannabis operations in several states, including a medical marijuana growing facility in Hancock. Cave Ventures Inc., based in Cumberland, invests in businesses, including some related to medical marijuana.

Strand gave an overview of the Maryland’s program, which she said stands out in part because of its testing requirements.

“In Maryland, (medical) cannabis is tested at each stage at which it is transformed. … It provides a high-quality program,” she said.

In the end, each medical cannabis product carries a certificate of analysis. Among other things, the certificate shows the specific cannabinoid that the product contains and the concentration of that substance.

The state employs a computerized “seed-to-sale” database system that tracks medical cannabis from where it was grown to where the final product was sold, she said. That system helps combat illegal trafficking.

Marijuana remains an illegal substance under federal law, and recreational marijuana use is still illegal in Maryland. Strand said some of her work involves separating medical cannabis from the stigma of marijuana as a recreational drug.

She pointed to the 69 medical cannabis dispensaries in the state.

“They are all very beautiful. … The owners have made a tremendous investment to legitimize this industry,” she said. “They’re not back-alley deals.”

Kimbro echoed some of those remarks as he outlined how Harvest’s medical cannabis is grown and produced.

“I use this standard on our dispensaries: ‘Would I bring my mom there?’” he said.

Kimbo said he grew up firmly opposed to marijuana use and worked in counterterrorism roles that often meant battling illicit drug operations.

He realized the benefits of medical marijuana when a friend’s daughter found relief from seizures by using medical cannabis in another state.

“My friend’s daughter is changed by this treatment. She’s a regular little girl,” he said.

Kimbro said Maryland struck a balance between imposing proper safeguards and getting medical cannabis to patients as quickly as practicable.

“It’s a medical product. It has to be grown that way,” he said.

He contrasted Maryland’s program with one in his home state of Oklahoma, which he said needs stricter rules.

For example, Kimbro said, an Oklahoma patient can possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana in flower form.

“That’s a one-gallon Ziploc bag,” Kimbro said.

In Maryland, a person can purchase up to 120 grams, or about 4.2 ounces, of flower in a 30-day period.

Freas talked about challenges and rewards of investing in medical marijuana companies.

“We are still somewhere in the early phases, and this thing is moving at the speed of light,” he said.

Read the article here.

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