Dispensers say Md. is great market for medical marijuana

Companies eager to pair patients with treatment

Companies that are a step closer to dispensing medical marijuana in Maryland are eager to move forward.

The president of a company that’s a step closer to dispensing medical marijuana in Maryland thinks the state is a great market for the industry and that the perception of pot can change.

Maryland’s medical marijuana industry took a big step forward last week by pre-approving 102 companies to dispense the drug.

Leah Heise is a pioneer. The former attorney for the federal government set up a company that is among the first to get a license to give approved patients in Maryland marijuana in a variety of forms to address a variety of illnesses.

“For example, if you have arthritis, you might decide you want a topical, so you might use a cream you rub into your hands,” Heise said.

Heise’s company will not grow or process medical marijuana. It will only dispense the drug.

To make the license active, Heise has to go through extensive criminal background and financial viability investigations.

Her company, the Chesapeake Integrated Health Institute, will be run by a nurse practitioner who consults with patients about which cannabis strain works best for them.

“You can have a completely functioning life and not be stoned out of your mind, very similar to if you were taking fentanyl or methadone,” Heise said.

Heise also runs a national medical marijuana advocacy group called Women Grow. It’s an industry that she believes will grow in more ways than one in Maryland.

“We have huge educational hospital centers in the state of Maryland, so people are here all over the world to be treated for very specific, critical conditions for which cannabis can help them,” Heise said.

Heise said one of the challenges will be softening the stigma of marijuana.

“We have to make the moms, like myself, understand that we’re not trying to turn your teenagers into stoners. We’re trying to give people access to medication that they absolutely need,” Heise said. “Right now, every dispensary owner, and I would imagine every grower and processor, you will start to see massive education efforts.”

Heise said some of the education efforts are limited by the law.

“There’s a lot of advertising you can’t do. You can’t do Facebook boost posts. There are a lot of restrictions running a cannabis business,” Heise said.

Because marijuana is still illegal in the federal government’s eyes, Heise said the Internal Revenue Service will tax her dispensary’s income at 70 percent.

“So all of these people that just got dispensary licenses are taking the risk of, one, we’re violating federal law, and two, we’re just going to hang on for as long as we can and remain as profitable as we can until the federal government lets us deduct business expenses. We are not treated like normal businesses,” Heise said.

Heise hopes medical marijuana can be available to patients by next summer. She said it all depends on what happens in the courts as there are three pending lawsuits related to who can grow marijuana in the state.

By George Lettis

Published Dec 12, 2016

Source: WBAL TV