Panel Discusses Medical Marijuana Industry, Laws

By Abby Wargo 
News Editor

It’s 4:20 somewhere in Maryland. Medicinal marijuana is closer to Washington College than ever before.

On Tuesday, April 17, representatives of FarmKent Wellness Center in Elkton joined Director of the Department of Public Safety Gerald Roderick and Associate Professor of Pyschology Dr. Michael Kerchner for a presentation and discussion on the current status of medicinal marijuana in Maryland. The panel presented on a variety of topics including the process of applying for and obtaining medical marijuana, the chemical combinations in different strains of marijuana, and the medical marijuana industry as a whole.

In Maryland, there are 15 cultivation licenses for growing marijuana. Once it is grown, the marijuana is transported, processed, and then taken to one of 35 open Maryland dispensaries where individuals with medical cards can purchase it. Independent testing laboratories and medical providers are also a part of the medical marijuana industry, to test the chemical components in the marijuana and to prescribe patients with a license for a medical card.

Doctors can prescribe medicinal marijuana for a variety of reasons, from something as simple as insomnia, to something as serious as chronic seizures. A med card also requires backup medical documentation to ensure the patient’s need.

Dispensaries, according to Shane Mayberry, the manager of PharmKent Wellness, offer marijuana in a wide variety of forms. There are five different categories: oils, tinctures, and balms; edibles, smoked and vapes; extracts; and synthetics. Edibles are not sold at Maryland dispensaries because they are easily accessible to children. Marijuana extract can either be vaped or put into food while synthetics contain a single THC molecule but miss all other cannabinoids.

The state requires chemical analysis for all marijuana grown for medical use in order to show all of the attributes of the plant, according to Peter Murphy, a managing member of PharmKent Wellness. This data is then sent to the processors so that they can calibrate what users are getting in their marijuana week to week.

Maryland also has a seed-to-sale tracking system, according to Mayberry. This system tracks the marijuana along its journey so that the state can regulate how much patients are allotted.

Murphy said that applying for a license to sell medical marijuana was difficult.

“It’s unbelievable how much paperwork there is,” he said. “[The government] makes it so difficult to apply, but there is a reason for that. But when it comes to enforcing all of these rules, they are absent.”

Medical marijuana is not taxed in Maryland, so the state only gets tax revenue from licenses. Murphy said that that is not enough money for the state to fully police the industry. Of the 102 licensed dispensaries in Maryland, only 35 are open and operational.

Murphy said that, since medicinal marijuana is a new industry in Maryland, it is important to be flexible as the industry grows.

“You need to be very frugal­—you never know when the next law will hinder you,” he said. “Every quarter there’s something different.”

Roderick was on the panel to compare the College’s policies on controlled dangerous substances, or CDS, to the burgeoning medicinal marijuana industry.

“It was not that long ago that there was a zero tolerance policy in place,” he said.

Now, students’ attitudes toward casual marijuana use are changing.

Roderick said that there has been an increase in calls to Public Safety reporting suspected marijuana use on campus.

Traditionally, a drug violation on campus would merit an Honor Board hearing, but now, that is not always the case.

Roderick said that Public Safety is considering changing how these violations are reviewed and what the response level should be.

“We need to have a conversation on how can we best handle these complaints,” he said. “We don’t know where this is going.”

Reviewing marijuana policies and College philosophies could become imperative if students begin to acquire med cards or if recreational use is legalized.

Regardless of what the future for legalized marijuana is, Roderick said that hearing from students and the PharmKent representatives was informational.

“I’ve learned a lot tonight, and obviously I still have a long way to go,” he said.

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