The Maryland Cannabis Industry isn’t going to like this… But they should probably read it anyway!

Wow! The first “click-bait” title for MedCannReport! Let’s see how this goes…

In Maryland, the medical cannabis program is poised to open up shop, with plants being grown, processors, labs and dispensaries identified and preparing to open, and patients eagerly awaiting their chance to get the medicine legally promised to them in 2013. Word on the (not) street is that dispensaries will begin to have product for sale sometime this Fall, possibly as early as the end of September 2017. All well and good, and there are some very good people working very hard to make this happen. As a matter of fact, I have met many of these good people. I have seen their dedication to the industry, and listened to their concern for providing patients the best possible medicine in the most welcoming of environments. There truly are some amazing and dedicated individuals working, not only directly with the plant, but also in peripheral roles such as consulting, security, delivery, advocacy and education.

Education that’s where The Medical Cannabis Report (MedCannReport) fits in. It has been our goal since the beginning (2015) to provide the patients, medical professionals, law enforcement, and the communities of Maryland with the best possible education and information about medical cannabis and the program here in Maryland. This has been a rough task. Not because of any shortage of good information or resources, but due to a severe lack of engagement from the industry that has so much riding on this program.

It has long been the mission of MedCannReport to encourage industry players to recognize that the best way to engage their patients (customers) and medical professionals (prescribers) is to give quality education and information to the public, at no cost, so that there is a well-informed patient base ready to patronize their businesses and use their products and services. One way to do this is through direct and media advertising. However, that is risky, as Federal law is still at odds with the state program, and FCC and other restrictions on cannabis advertising prevent a lot of this from happening.

MedCannReport recognized this early on, and has been a constant advocate for the industry “players” to offer sponsored content and events, free to the public, to engage and educate. it is not only smart, it is the responsible thing to do. Personally, I have always thrown around the line “no one wants to drop dabs on granny”, meaning that no responsible professional wants an ill-informed patient or caregiver buying and using a product that is unfit for their condition, medical recommendation or personal preference. I always throw that around in jest, but the sentiment is genuine. To address this, MedCannReport has sat in countless meetings and private calls with industry representatives, letting them know that a well-planned and aptly delivered message of information and education, fully sponsored by them, would be a prudent move toward a safe, successful, and yes, profitable, medical cannabis program in Maryland. A few have seen the wisdom in this, and fewer still have supported or spearheaded efforts as a result.

But, a large part of the 130+ cannabis industry businesses have been too focused on carving out their own piece of the yet-to-be-baked pie. Your business wants to have us do a video for you to use? Great! Don’t have any money right now to afford it? Not great, but workable! Want to keep it all for yourself and target your own cultivated list of prospective patients and professionals? That’s a problem. The cannabis industry has a unique chance to set a new “normal” for how an industry and a community can work together to allow meaningful outcomes TOGETHER! It isn’t “us” and “them”, it is WE. It is The PATIENT FIRST. It is about pooling resources so that the community can see this for what it is: an important step toward a healthier, happier society.

So, you may be saying: “this sounds a lot like sour grapes”, and yes there is some frustration with being unable to help others see the “big picture”. However, there have been some very real and concerning observations within Maryland thus far that make this a genuine issue for the Industry.

This isn’t about calling out individual businesses or people. it also isn’t about creating tension between a budding industry and a “captive” patient base. It is about helping everyone see the mistakes and potential pitfalls, so that the patient comes first, and the community sees value in what the industry brings.

There are several dispensaries that are opening, or preparing to open soon, and one dispensary (as of this writing) who has opened it’s doors and begun seeing patients for “pre-order consultations.” These dispensaries are the front-facing businesses that will have the first chance to meet and serve their patients. They are in a powerful place to help spread good information and provide real education to their client/patients. However, what has been witnessed thus far has been abysmal. Putting aside the corporations running the dispensaries are striving to build off of free or gathered publicity (i.e. news stories and showing up at various networking events, there is a definite sense of self-promotion which lacks any form of patient engagement and focuses mainly on getting names from residents in their respective districts to show earnings potential to investors and boards. Nothing really wrong with this, aside from its short-sightedness. But SO MUCH more is possible.

A couple of examples: I had the opportunity to attend a dispensary “welcoming event” held in a community center. The people were all nice enough, and there were lots of “swag bags” full of literature and some do dads for people. There were 2 questions upon entry to the event:”Are you a patient, physician, or job seeker?” and “what county do you live in?”. Depending on the answers to these questions, attendees were directed to different parts of the center and various representatives circulated to talk and meet people. I personally witnessed no fewer than 10 attendees (there were maybe 100 in total) be cordially greeted, and promptly left to wander upon announcing they were not residents of the county/district where the dispensary is to be located. Interesting… there is some justification for focusing on ones own neighborhood and building community support. But, with a program that will likely take another year to be fully operational with all dispensaries open, patients may travel across the state to seek medicine and dispensaries should focus on the patient needs and not address or voting district.

At this same event, there was also a golden opportunity to inform and educate the audience about medical cannabis, as well as “sell” their company a bit in an effort to build trust and support of the community. What occurred was far from that. The official program consisted of a few local government officials speaking to their assumed constituents, and brief introductions of key members of the business (Owner, Medical Advisor, etc…). Then, a great video presentation of the science and benefits of medical cannabis was promised. What resulted was a projection of a web browser, showing a couple of YouTube videos that were, I can only assume, chosen at random, and containing hardly any solid or useful information for patients and community members. The business representatives seemed to disappear into the woodwork, and the program was over.

Another example of this lack of foresight and engagement happened in a “consult” with one of the dispensaries. It was explained that this was to be their procedure for patient assessment and focus, giving the impression of how a pharmacist might consult with a patient on a new medicine that their doctor prescribed. Great! Seems like a great chance to get some good information about the medicine and what types of services and offerings this particular dispensary may have in the very near future. Unfortunately, this was not exactly the case. Setting aside the fee (which was explained to be applied toward a voucher for future purchase), the meeting was a bit of a let down. The “consultant” was void of any information, and simply took down some preliminary info (conditions seeking help with, familiarity with cannabis, current medications), and basically said “we’ll call you when we know anything”. I must admit, neither I nor the patient I transported and sat with are expecting them to “know anything” in the near future. The bright spot of the “consult” was the information that was shared with this “consultant” in the form of a very nice brochure. Yes, the PATIENT gave the CONSULTANT a brochure about the different strains and cannabinoid uses of medical cannabis. This brochure was given to the patient by another medical consultant who made their actual qualifying recommendation. I WILL name that medical consultant, as they really seem to be doing good work: CannaCare Docs of Maryland provided the brochure to this patient on the consult visit. It is well-produced, highly informative, and was a great “walk away” for them to provide their patients. To CannaCare Docs- thanks for the assistance, and apologies for giving this particular dispensary any ideas of how things should be done.

The cannabis industry in Maryland has been busy, but I fear they are perhaps too busy at the moment to properly engage and educate their community and patient base. Take note! It is NOT too late. Much more can and should be done. Not just by individual businesses, but by the industry as a whole. It is clear that the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has no plan to effectively provide this information and education in a timely manner, or it would have happened already. Meetings with commission members (including the Commissioner, himself) have indicated that there is no current budget or plan to provide the necessary Public Awareness Messages in the near future. This means that dispensaries will begin selling medicine to patients and caregivers who have sought their own education, while the general public stares in disbelief as “weed is sold in Maryland” (an actual quote from a Maryland citizen).

So, there you have it. We are officially calling out the Maryland medical cannabis industry participants and letting you know that if you want to be successful AND help the community, you must do more. And, no, this is not a pitch to engage with MedCannReport to tackle this together, although we plan on being here every step of the way. It is a call to action for patients to be vigilant and understand that the cream will surely rise to the top. Support and encourage those businesses that are serving the public well, and call those out who are not.

Thank you for reading past the “click-bait” title, and I wish you all good health and happiness.

Modern Medicine and the Individual

One of the promises of advanced medical research is the concept of “personalized medicine” and possibly better treatment outcomes based on tailor-made treatments and interventions. The idea that a treatment can be developed and deployed on an individual basis to target a specific condition is fascinating and straight out of science fiction.

Advances in medicine have improved quality of life for scores of millions of people over the years. Treatments for previously incurable disease have been developed, and life expectancy continues to extend. Some disease has even been all but eradicated thanks to vaccinations and preventive care.

But medical advances come with their own set of concerns. Side effects, quality of life, and cost factors all play a part in a persons decision to work with their doctor for certain treatments. For example: if you are a parent or caretaker for a young one, deciding on the importance and participation of vaccination programs can be a major undertaking. Information from “Anti-Vaxer’s” and real scientific study often collide and confound the situation. Vaccines DO help the public well-being, and there are some devastating diseases that have been kept in check due to vaccination programs. Vaccines can be freely administered, or could be cost-prohibitive to some. They can address disease of major concern, or could prevent minor illness in some while preventing the spread to other more “at-risk” individuals.

The vaccine for the Human papillomavirus (HPV) has brought its own concerns and champions, as well as much more conflicting evidence on the effectiveness and necessity of the HPV vaccine. Thankfully, real research happening on HPV and the vaccination by independent studies. Additionally, thanks to the advances in cannabis research, there is some promising data that shows cannabis may be helpful in addressing some of the potential side effects of the HPV vaccine. This is only one example of significant cannabis research, but it is easy to see how an increase in valid cannabis research may yield bigger and better things for our global community.

Rock ON, Maryland!

This morning, there was a wonderful interview on 98 Rock with one of my favorite people in the cannabis industry, Leah Heise of Chesapeake Integrated Health Institute. She is the CEO of this medical cannabis dispensary, opening in Maryland.

Leah does a great job of helping the “gang” understand the pitfalls of opiate addiction during treatment, and let’s us know her dispensary is on track to open before the end of 2017!

Give it a listen:

From The Office of The Governor of Maryland July 6, 2017

Governor Larry Hogan Announces Appointments to Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission
Fills 3 Vacancies, Replaces 6 Commission Members With Expired Terms, Doubles Minority Representation.
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan today announced ten appointments to the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission. The commission oversees the development of policies, procedures, and regulations to ensure that medical cannabis is available to qualifying patients. With the initial application phase complete, the commission is focused on the successful implementation of Maryland’s medical cannabis program.
Charles P. LoDico, M.S., F-ABFT, is currently a senior chemist/toxicologist for the Department of Health and Human Services. He received his master’s in pharmacology/toxicology from Long Island University, School of Pharmacy. LoDico, who has been widely published in peer-reviewed journals, was nominated by the University of Maryland Medical Center. His appointment fills a vacancy for a scientist with experience in the science of cannabis and nominated by a state research institution on the commission.
Barry G. Pope is the drug rebate manager and PBM clinical pharmacist for Conduent State Healthcare, LLC. He has been a registered pharmacist for 20 years, where he has experience servicing large Medicaid populations. Mr. Pope received his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from the Arnold and Marie Schwartz School of Pharmacy. Pope was recommended for this appointment by the Maryland Pharmacy Association, and fills a vacancy for a licensed pharmacist in the state on the commission.
Brian P. Lopez is a partner and the executive vice president for Osprey Property Company, where he oversees the company’s multi-family and affordable housing portfolio. Prior to joining Osprey Property Company, he was a loan officer for AGM Financial Services, Inc., and a project manager for Safeway, Inc. Lopez received his master’s in Real Estate Development from Johns Hopkins University. Lopez fills a vacancy for a member of the public or a patient who supports medical cannabis position on the commission.
Alvin W. Davis, M.D., currently serves as a partner at the Cumberland Anesthesia and Pain Management Associates, where he specializes in cardiac/thoracic anesthesia. He received his medical degree from the George Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Davis fills one of the three licensed physician positions on the commission.
Jeffrey R. Gahler is the Harford County Sheriff, a position he has held since 2014. Prior to being elected sheriff, he served 28 years with the Maryland State Police where grew from a cadet to a captain. Gahler received his masters of science in management from Johns Hopkins University. Sheriff Gahler fills the law enforcement representative position on the commission.
Charles Smith III has served as the state’s attorney for Frederick County since 2007. Smith is also a member of the Frederick County Substance Abuse Council and is chair of the State’s Attorneys’ Coordination Council. Smith received his law degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law. Smith fills the member of the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association position on the commission.
Rachel Rhodes is the horticulture associate agent and master gardener coordinator for the University of Maryland Extension – Queen Anne’s County, where she provides horticultural and environmental education classes. Rhodes received her masters of environmental science from Wesley College. Rhodes fills the representative of the University of Maryland Extension position on the commission.
Ehsan Abdeshahian, M.D., currently serves as a staff physician with specialties in pain and sports medicine for Advanced Pain Management Specialists. Dr. Abdeshahian received his medical degree from St. George’s University in Grenada, Spain, and completed his residency at the State University of New York – Downstate University Hospital. Dr. Abdeshahian fills one of the three licensed physician positions on the commission.
Scott Welsh is the owner of Maryland Flower and Foliage, where he maintains 160,000 square feet of greenhouse space and 100,000 square feet of outdoor growing areas, manages the day-to-day operations, and works closely with local growers and farmers to produce cuttings, seedlings, and finished products for resale throughout the state. Welsh fills the position of an individual with experience in horticulture and recommended by the Department of Agriculture on the commission.
John T. Gontrum, Esq., serves as the assistant comptroller for the Office of the Comptroller of Maryland, and previously served as the director of legislative affairs and as a constituent services officer for the Comptroller. Mr. Gontrum received his J.D. from the University of Maryland School Of Law. Gontrum is being reappointed to the commission for a term starting October 1, 2017, and fills the representative of the Office of the Comptroller position on the commission.

A Celebration of Independence

Happy Independence Day, to our readers in the USA!
A celebration of our statement of independence, and the war that resulted in the sovereignty of the United States of America.
People also tend to use the 4th of July as a day to show gratitude to the men and women who have given up a part of themselves (some, even more) in defense of our rights and liberties. And, we use it as a way to, generally, say “Happy Birthday, America!”

These are all great sentiments. The movement of an entire group of people, standing up for their freedom and liberties, and declaring a strict opposition to tyranny and unjust taxation, demanding to be seen as a sovereign nation in the eyes of the world. A nation born under freedom, for all white men and their property to be protected from the taxation and oversight of a king in a far away land.

This is not a bitter post, nor a critique of what it took the United States, as a nation, to be born and thrive through the ages. Yes, there is truth that the reason we exist as a nation is because our forefathers didn’t want to pay the King of England any more taxes. But that is simplistic, and not a fair shot to take at our country on our birthday. There were more far-reaching reasons why the Declaration of Independence was formed and distributed.

Now, lets fast forward to today, July 4, 2017: 241 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. What is our country like today? Well, since the signing in 1776, we have abolished slavery, granted ALL men, and later women, the right to vote. We have sent people to the moon, we have built monuments, we have achieved greatness. We have also fought wars in other countries, engaged in illegal activities to subvert other governments to create instability, and most recently, elected an unfit president, with allegations of foreign and internal tampering with our elections.

And, let’s not forget the continued waste of life and resources that is the War on Drugs. Unfairly waged against minorities and groups that were seen as “subversive”, the War on Drugs has prevented us from moving forward as a nation and a planet for far too long.

In this modern US of A, we have about half of all states agree and legislate for sensible medical cannabis laws. We have another handful of states (and the District of Columbia) that agree adult-use of cannabis should be made safely available. And we have a federal government (not just the current administration) which refuses to accept science and common sense, classifying cannabis as a Schedule 1 Narcotic with no medical benefit. Drug prosecutions continue. People are still stopped and harassed, and sometimes murdered, as a result of being the wrong race or possessing the wrong plant. This is not progress, nor is it freedom from tyranny. However, we do have a lot of “awakened” individuals in this nation of ours. Some even sit in positions of power, and can help shape and change outdated and biased laws. And, there are a LOT of us.

So, what can we do on this 4th of July… this Birthday for our Nation? We can celebrate a fun summer holiday with friends and family. We can remember those who gave of themselves for our nation, and we can be thankful to whomever we choose for the right to celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We can also remain vigilant, and open about what we see and how we want to change it. Refusing to give in to “old” methods and excuses, in favor of truth and an openness to hear new ideas. We can organize and stand tall, knowing that we DO make sense, and that we CAN change things. We can continue to shine a light on the wrongs that occur, refusing to live in fear and acting out of hate of the unknown.

And, we can love. Love for your family, love for your friends, love for your neighbor, love for the person in need. Light, love and honesty. Sounds a little better to me than, “Light Fuse and Get Away.”

https://goo.gl/images/cZW3hd

The Cannabis Industry in Maryland

Before there was talk of a medical cannabis program in Maryland, an entire industry of “head” shops and tobacconists operated openly but with severe penalties for selling anything that was not strictly for tobacco consumption only! Selling water pipes and “bowls” to knowing consumers, who simply were looking for safe and effective ways to deliver cannabis, these merchants dealt in a legal gray market:

Source: (1981)Headshop laws –When is a pipe a bong? Challenges abound to state laws – UPI Archives

As time moved on, the situation improved, but the penalties for “paraphernalia” were almost as steep as drug possession. Certain “codes of conduct” that had developed over the years stuck, as a public intolerance for cannabis culture continued.

However, as Maryland’s medical cannabis program begins to take shape, there are revised paraphernalia laws, and a public policy shift that is starting to make sense:

Source: After Hogan veto overturned, marijuana paraphernalia won’t be criminal in Maryland – Baltimore Sun

And just like that, it turns out one of the first (unwittingly?) legal participants in Maryland’s Medical Cannabis Industry are the “head” shops and glass blowers of Maryland. Of course, physicians and other medical professionals also count, as they have been able to register and recommend to patients since 2016. But this opens up the rest of the story. When one thinks of the participants in a medical cannabis industry, Cultivators, Processors and Dispensaries certainly spring to mind, along with Physicians and medical professionals. And now, perhaps smoke shops and “head” shops are added to the mental list.

There are a whole slew of other businesses and ancillary services that any industry rely upon. And, when dealing with a highly regulated product like cannabis, even more services and participants emerge. Specialized security and cleaning services, transportation, banking, legal and copyright services, all become players in this new industry sweeping across Maryland. Add on to this the amount of new jobs created within the industry and ancillary businesses, and that is a potential for a great economic boon for the state.

Darren Weiss, Esq., Erik Chapman of cloud-n, and Dr. Andrew Rosenstein sat down with jCanna’s Josh Crossney.

Looking around the country, it is hard to dispute that cannabis revenue is good for states that choose to allow it. Medical cannabis programs are shedding age-old stereotypes at record rates, showing that crime rates tend to decrease, while quality of life measures go up:

Source: Marijuana legalization: Research review on crime and impaired driving – Journalist’s Resource

And now with Nevada preparing to open the doors to adult-use (‘recreational’) cannabis at midnight July 1, 2017, a whole new crop of vacationers will be able to legally try cannabis for the first time. The tide has turned, and progress is clear.

What does this mean for Maryland? It means that this summer while our medical cannabis industry takes root and begins to show signs of life, our communities are going to start to see new and exciting businesses and services pop up. The green cannabis leaf will likely feature in more than one logo or store-front sign. Head shops will begin to tolerate discussion of which tool for which prescribed cannabis preparation, or tolerate the mere utterance of “bong” or “marijuana” within the confines of the shop. Perhaps your business or employer will take on new clients from the cannabis industry, or maybe your doctor will talk with you about medical cannabis as possible treatment. All of these are positive signs of progress, and all signify a dawning of opportunity and change in attitudes toward cannabis.

There are so many committed people and groups, working to inform and educate the public. We plan to feature these in coming posts, and now work with many of them on an ongoing basis to bring education to the patients, medical professionals, and the community. It are these relationships that build networks; and networks foster understanding through communication.

The Medical Industry in Maryland

It is our goal at The Medical Cannabis Report to foster an environment of community acceptance and integration. We do this through information, education, and exploration into the culture of cannabis, and offer a conduit for the community and the industry to grow and learn together.

One of our first such efforts took place in August 2016. We orchestrated a series of Table Discussions with members of the Maryland community to discuss medical cannabis, and the industry coming to Maryland. Darren Weiss, Esq., Erik Chapman of cloud-n, and Dr. Andrew Rosenstein sat down with jCanna’s Josh Crossney. Here is what they had to say:

DC Cannabis-Dealing Arrests Back to Pre-Legalization Levels | Leafly

Helping communities and police understand and work with cannabis law is going to be one of the toughest things to adjust for “on the fly.”

We need to understand that the plant is safe, effective for some conditions, and carries less risk of abuse (and harm from abuse) than many other legal substances.

The seat of our Federal Government is a very odd place, legally, for cannabis. However, there are so many dedicated cultivators, processors, extractors, and dispensaries, not to mention just those citizens dedicated to donating medicine to patients. Here’s an update on how cannabis law enforcement is looking in the District:

Washington, DC, voters legalized cannabis possession and cultivation in 2014, but thanks to Congress blocking a regulated market, sales remain illegal.

Source: DC Cannabis-Dealing Arrests Back to Pre-Legalization Levels | Leafly

Keep up to date with all that is happening in Maryland, DC and across the nation. Stay Tuned!

Focus On What Matters

Remain focused on what is important.
It is always unsettling when another story pops up in the news about law suites and program delays. Sometimes, we must step back and understand it will take vigilance and good conscience to live up to Maryland’s potential as an outstanding example of a solid medical cannabis program. Thanks to some wonderful participants and license awardees, the patients and medical professionals of our state have a powerful medicine to treat a range of conditions.

One shining example keeping focused on the vision is ForwardGro. They are the first licensed cultivator in Maryland to have “plants in the dirt”, and are expecting to have cannabis ready for patients by the Fall of 2017. That could be earlier or later, depending on a variety of factors.

  • Inspection Schedules
  • Processor and Dispensary readiness
    • Final License
    • Local Ordinances
  • Lawsuits and other legal issues

One thing will be certain: The Medical Cannabis Report will strive to give the necessary news, information, and entertainment for the Maryland community and our cannabis industry. Follow us here on ourblog, or check out our other social media. Also, remember to subscribe, and you won’t miss a thing.

Stay Tuned!

Cooperation

Medical Cannabis
Cooperation is about working together to achieve a common goal. It is so encouraging to see such behavior in Maryland’s medical cannabis industry. Our hopes are high that the true spirit of working together permeates all aspects of Maryland’s industry and culture. There is just too much to lose.

Stay Tuned! and check out Maryland’s patient registry.