Laurel company granted medical marijuana license for National Harbor dispensary

national-harborAltPharm, a Laurel-based medical marijuana dispensary, has received its state pre-approval license to operate in the National Harbor area of Prince George’s County, opening as early as summer 2017.

AltPharm spokeswoman Martha Heil said the license will allow the company to sell medical marijuana in state legislative District 26, which includes Fort Washington, Oxon Hill and Accokeek.

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission approved preliminary licenses for 102 dispensaries statewide in November and revealed their selections on Dec. 9. Ten of the dispensary licenses went to companies that already had preliminary licenses to grow the drug.

“Marijuana takes three months to come to full maturity for the first harvest,” Heil said. “[Growers] just got licensed in August, so I think most people are expecting dispensaries will have something to actually sell by summer or fall 2017. They’ll be producing things with food grade rather than just food safety standards.”

During the food grading process, Heil said companies inspect and assess the product, determining its quality. This differs from food safety inspections that evaluate the handling, preparation and storage of the product.

Dispensaries will work like any other pharmacy, said AltPharm president James Riordon, who founded the company with colleagues Marguerite Santos and Vicky Mayoral. The dispensary’s clinical director will supervise the operation and make recommendations for patients.

“Instead of bringing in a prescription, you bring in a card that you would obtain with a recommendation by a doctor, who you have a standing relationship with,” Riordon said. “You apply for your card through [the commission’s] website with your recommendation, which is not a prescription. When you come [to the dispensary], you’re already in the system that’s set up.”

Riordon said the three founders, all alumni of the University of Maryland, were also interested in developing a program for disadvantaged families who were unable to afford this form of medication. Part of the AltPharm business plan will incorporate discounts and additional programs to make medicine more accessible for those in need.

The National Harbor area provides easy access to both Maryland and Virginia, he said.

“The Maryland program allows us to serve a lot of Virginia residents as well; something that I know Washington, D.C., has not been able to do with outside applications,” Riordon said. “The National Harbor is such an up-and-coming place with lots of potential down the road.”

Riordon said he has watched the stigma of medical marijuana begin to fade away and hopes to see the form of medication become a new normal.

“When we first started, it wasn’t as publicly accepted as it is now. A lot of the companies that we talked to originally didn’t want to have anything to do with us,” Riordon said, “but as the program started rolling and we started to get established, it feels like it’s now out and open. Everybody was much more accepting and accommodating to the industry as a whole.”

Author: Andrew Michaels

Published: Dec 19, 2016

Source: The Baltimore Sun