Leonardtown, MD – Medical marijuana was available in Maryland for its first full year in 2018, totaling $95.4 million in sales and assisting over 83,000 patients through a variety of products.

The industry began its full, statewide, implementation in Dec. 2017, pulling in $1.8 million the first month. As the number of patients accepted for a medical marijuana card steadily grew, so too did marijuana sales. The most productive month for the drug was November (the last month on the state’s report), where 117,799 infused products and 1,809.52 pounds of flower were sold, injecting $13.8 million to the state’s economy.

Locally, there is potential for the industry to expand and employ more Southern Maryland residents across its four dispensaries. Located off Three Notch Road in Mechanicsville, Southern Maryland Relief opened in December. Co-owner Charlie Mattingly is currently working with the county and state to begin growing hemp in St. Mary’s County, employing around 100 individuals, he stated. “Where I live is a farming community and a lot of people struggle. I want to give these people better jobs and a better future. These are career-based jobs with benefits, not a backyard grow operation.” Mattingly also said that he is working with the St. Mary’s County Department of Economic Development to have marijuana added to the county’s economic plan.

Mattingly is a staunch defender of the drug, seizing opportunities to dispel misconceptions and educate the community on the benefits of marijuana and its non-psychoactive derived products infused with CBD. “My team and I talk to people. Before we opened, we went around to the libraries to educate people and they were packed. You shouldn’t bash something just because you don’t understand it. There’s something really good to this and I look for something to change in the near future.” One of the things that Mattingly believes will change soon is the scheduling of the drug at the federal level. He explained that the current schedule one designation for the drug is holding back a large population of federal employees from benefiting. “All that needs to happen is cannabis needs to be descheduled. Right now, it’s schedule one so federal employees can’t get a medical marijuana card. I’m told that there are bills in the works to fix that this year. It’s not fair that you or I can get a card and get marijuana, but a federal employee can’t.”

The opioid epidemic is still hurting the state significantly and Mattingly, along with some state leaders, believe that medical marijuana might be able to help combat the crisis that killed 1, 848 individuals through the third quarter. Just a month ago, Delegate Cheryl Glenn [D-Baltimore City] pre-filed a bill that would allow doctors to recommend the use of cannabis therapy to opioid abusers and addicts. Mattingly favors the use of the drug to help treat opioid addiction, stating, “Cannabis is one of the best things for helping with withdraw symptoms.”

A 2017 University of New Mexico study showed that Medical Cannabis Programs (MCPs) could be beneficial to opioid addicts. The study that took place over a 21-month period found that those enrolled in an MCP were more likely to reduce their “daily opioid prescription dosage, or “cease filling opioid prescriptions altogether.” Because of the “clinically and statistically significant evidence” shown between MCP enrollment and opioid prescription use, the researchers concluded that “further investigation on cannabis as a potential alternative to prescription opioids” is warranted.

Recreational marijuana is another movement that Mattingly supports and, according to a Jan. 2019 Poll by Gonzales Research, 58.2 percent of Marylanders agree. During the 2018 gubernatorial election, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana was “something worth looking into.” The drug is already approved for adult recreational use in DC and some have speculated that Maryland may be next.

With support around the state from citizens and local leaders, the money-making wave that has helped the economies of Colorado, Washington and other states seems inevitable. With a larger than average freshman class of legislators in the Maryland House and Senate (44 new House members and 17 new Senate members) this legislative session could produce new marijuana legislation.

Contact Jerold Massie at staffwriter@thebaynet.com.