Established in 1962 by Baltimore business professionals, the Center Club at the Inner Harbor is an upscale establishment where members can conduct business meetings over a fanciful dinner. In early July, the Center Club hosted an important social function for area investors to network and find potential entrepreneurial ventures. At this meeting were some of Maryland’s most prominent medical marijuana entrepreneurs, each claiming to be capable of bringing medical and economic relief to Baltimore with their proposed plans and green wares by as early as 2017.
Daraius Irani, an economist at Towson University, told a room full of interested prospects that, when it comes to medical marijuana acceptance, society is living “in changed times”.
Despite mixed responses from the federal government and other high-ranking authorities, medical marijuana is becoming more regulated and accepted after years of state legislation. The Maryland General Assembly legalized medical marijuana in 2013, and they are scheduled to meet again in early July to hold the first medical marijuana discussion in a year. Although the state has been abundantly cautious to implement its own regulations, proponents foresee 2016 as the year that the industry truly begins to take shape.
Many medical marijuana companies are raring to join the prospective “green rush” in Maryland. In November of 2015, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission received over 1,080 applications from companies seeking to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana — but this far exceeds the state limit of 15 growing facilities and 94 marijuana dispensaries.
Among these prospective companies is a large Colorado-based corporation called GreenLabs Inc. Billing themselves as “more than just an office space”, GreenLabs Inc. has much experience helping marijuana startup companies in Denver, Colorado, and now they plan on stimulating the medical marijuana industry in Baltimore next. Aside from having an entire investment division known as the “Denver Angels”, which can provide vast sums of private loans to startup medical marijuana companies, GreenLabs Inc. has also applied for permits to cultivate and dispense marijuana on its own. The GreenLabs Inc. cultivation center, which they hope to open in Baltimore City, is expected to create 100 jobs according to Jon Cardin, a GreenLabs Inc. spokesperson and former state delegate.
Chesapeake Health Sciences, on the other hand, is a conglomeration of native scientists, medical workers, and business entrepreneurs who are hoping to keep the medical marijuana industry local. Their mission statement is to “set the gold standard” in terms of medical marijuana growth and distribution. If they win approval from the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission this year, they predict anywhere from 25 to 50 new jobs to be created across facilities designed to grow, process and dispense the drug. This is according to their CEO, Greg Rochlin, who was at the prestigious Center Club function last week.
In all, Irani predicts an annual profit of anywhere from $20 million to $70 million will be added to Maryland’s state treasury from the fledgling industry, and anywhere from 300 to 1,000 new jobs could be formed.
Opponents predict that Maryland officials may be slow to act on medical marijuana promulgation, pointing out that 1979 was the first time legalizing marijuana was proposed to Maryland legislators, and that it has taken decades for them to begin to consider the idea seriously. The federal stance against marijuana adds an extra hurdle to the process, since traditional banks are unlikely to lend money for a medical practice that is technically still illegal. Nonetheless, important political figures, such as Governor Larry Hogan, are openly discussing the best ways to regulate medical marijuana, and legitimate high-end meetings – such as the conference in Center Club this month – further underscores the possibility of legal, sanctioned marijuana use in Maryland.