Harford Magazine - Page 38 - A Budding Industry

Harford Magazine
- Page 38
A Budding Industry
Julie Donovan and Beth MacLeod are about to do something they never in their “wildest dreams” expected: open a medical marijuana dispensary in Harford County.

The Chestertown sisters spent the past 30 years raising their children and cultivating their careers. A former paralegal, Donovan is a computer consultant for a business that designs software for law firms, while MacLeod, a former high school biology teacher, is a marketing specialist for a wellness company.

For most of their lives, Donovan, 59, and MacLeod, 56, admit they knew little about marijuana, which is also known as cannabis. But when a friend who experienced insomnia and couldn’t eat as a result of Lyme disease saw his symptoms decrease after using the drug, they began to wonder if there was more to it.

She and her sister “are in our 50s and grew up in the Nancy Reagan ‘Say No to Drugs’ era,” Donovan says. “Then we started realizing and seeing with our own eyes how particular patients were having relief.”

This fall, the sisters will open Four Green Fields in Street — Harford County’s third cannabis dispensary. RISE Joppa, the county’s first dispensary, opened in April, and True Wellness in Aberdeen was scheduled to open in August.

Supporters of the county’s dispensaries say they give patients safe and natural options for pain and symptom relief, which they say is especially important as the heroin and opioid epidemic continues to grow.

“At the end of the day, we are helping make people feel better, people who are in pain,” says Andy Grossman, head of capital markets for Green Thumb Industries (GTI), which manages RISE Joppa. “This drug is helping provide comfort for them and helping them increase the quality of life that they currently have.”

Still, the medical cannabis industry isn’t immune to growing pains. In Maryland, there have been concerns about diversity in the market, as well as about bigger companies controlling licenses to more than one dispensary. In addition, the federal government has given its prosecutors more power to enforce laws in states where medical marijuana is legal.

And reaction from physicians has been mixed.

“You have some who believe this is not medicine and it should be managed more like any other treatment through a process similar to the” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, says Gene M. Ransom III, CEO of MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society. “Then you have physicians who are saying, ‘Look, this is a lot less harmful than other things people are taking, and if it works or keeps them from doing things that are harmful, then maybe we should consider giving it out.’ ”