Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins was surprised Thursday night when his patrol operations commander, Capt. Ron Hibbard, emailed him an article about the approval of a new medical marijuana dispensary in Frederick.
“I was surprised that we had not received word it was going to be permitted down there,” Jenkins said. “I guess it had been moved along faster than I thought.”
In response, Hibbard and Jenkins drove to the Wellness Institute of Maryland on Friday morning to pay a visit. Initially, Jenkins said, he just planned to take a look at the building and scope out the location. But when he saw that journalists were speaking to the owners of the new dispensary — the first to be licensed in the state — he decided to get out and say hello.
What resulted was a cordial visit with Mike Kline and Ron Diggs, two of the company’s founders, and a quick tour of the dispensary. While Jenkins didn’t stay long, he said, he and Hibbard were reassured by the security measures in place.
“I am confident now that it’s going to be very heavily secured,” Jenkins said. “I was also relieved to find out there was going to be very little inventory stored at the dispensary itself. It’s a better scenario than I thought.”
For Jenkins, the opening of the dispensary, which won’t start selling products until after Labor Day, was a strange reminder that marijuana — a drug he spent much of his early career combating — had been partially legalized in his home state. Maryland approved the use of medical marijuana in 2012, and legislators are now slowly implementing a state-run cannabis program.
While Jenkins accepts that more dispensaries will likely be licensed in Frederick County, he’s still personally opposed to the use of medical cannabis, he said. And while his security concerns were somewhat alleviated by his visit, the legalization of medical cannabis still presents a conundrum for law enforcement.
“Dispensaries could still be a target for some kind of criminal act,” Jenkins said. “And then it presents a whole different set of problems. What do we do if we pull over someone with medical cannabis and they don’t have a prescription with them? If we stop a vehicle coming from one of these facilities, how do we determine it’s legitimate?”
Kline, meanwhile, is also working to alleviate concerns on the part of law enforcement. The dispensary is fitted with a modern security monitoring system and patients are required to make an appointment before coming to the dispensary, he said, eliminating the potential for walk-in traffic.
While the business is cash only — due largely to a shortage of banks willing to do business with medical marijuana dispensaries — Kline also doubts the company’s inventory would have much value on the streets. Only a small amount of “flower” — the industry term for marijuana buds — will be available at the dispensary. Most cannabis will be available as pills, oils, topical lotions or patches, and many products are specifically designed to lack hallucinogenic properties.
“The Maryland model is very medical,” said Arnold Honkofsky, the clinical director and licensed pharmacist for the dispensary. “We’re only facilitating another modality of treatment that could help make patients more comfortable.”
Jenkins might not agree with medical cannabis, but he is open to hearing more from the dispensary’s owners. During the visit, they discussed the possibility of sitting down and having a larger conversation, he said. In the future, Jenkins’ main concern is getting notice that a dispensary is about to open.
“We just want to be proactive,” he said. “I felt like when it came out in the paper, it surprised everyone, so it’s about being more aware moving forward.”