Dr. Paloma Lehfeldt dreams of a world where the stigma around medical cannabis is gone, cannabis crimes are expunged and patients are swiftly able to get the care they need.

It might be a long shot, but she’s confident the opening of Green Goods — a new dispensary in the Hillcrest Shopping Center in Frederick — is a step in the right direction.

Green Goods is the retail brand of Vireo, a cannabis grower and wholesaler with more than 100,000 square feet of greenhouse space in Maryland. Lehfeldt, Vireo’s director of medical education, said Green Goods is part of Vireo’s mission to make retail spaces more accessible to the public, featuring curbside pickup, high-quality brands and bright interiors.

The opening comes at a time when the state is wrestling with issues surrounding both medicinal and recreational marijuana, equity and criminal justice in the state legislature.

Lehfeldt says Green Goods’ message is focused on inclusivity and advocacy for reform of cannabis law at the state and federal levels. Cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it can’t be covered by insurance, is criminalized in most states and even requires licensed retailers to operate as cash-only businesses.

Green Goods works with local organizations to hold expungement information clinics for people convicted of cannabis-related crimes.

“This is something that is really important to us because cannabis crimes are lifelong convictions. They follow people throughout their entire life,” Lehfeldt said. “They’re not able to get federal housing, student loans, all of the above.”

Maryland legalized medical cannabis use in 2014. Since then, 17 growers and 102 dispensaries have opened with licenses in the state, according to data from the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC). There are currently more than 125,000 holders of medical cannabis ID cards in Maryland, up from 87,000 at the end of 2019.

The statewide market continues to grow. Maryland dispensary sales increased from $33.5 million in March 2020 to $46.4 million in January 2021, according to MMCC. Dispensaries like gLeaf and Kannavis have operated in Frederick for several years, and Sweet Buds, a locally-owned dispensary, opened in January on New Design Road.

But the industry’s growth can only be sustained if state and federal laws change, Morgan Fox, the media relations manager of the National Cannabis Industry Association, wrote in an email. As it stands now, there are limits on how many businesses can apply for grower and dispensary licenses at the state level, and federal law makes it near impossible to secure capital.

“Removing cannabis from the schedule of controlled substances and regulating cannabis products at the federal level would go a long way toward reducing some of the challenges facing cannabis businesses and applicants,” he wrote. “But there is much that can be done at the state and local level, including removing license caps for cannabis businesses, reducing taxes and providing resources immediately to social equity license applicants to help level the playing field.”

Lehfeldt said cannabis’ spot on the Schedule 1 list also makes it difficult for it to be embraced by the medical industry. Currently, most doctors are not trained in cannabis well enough to refer their patients to get medical cards. Only 13 percent of medical schools provide training on the benefits of cannabis.

“I’m a physician myself, and I’ve seen firsthand that people are not benefiting from pharmaceuticals all the time,” Lehfeldt said. “And this is really an alternative to a lot of these pharmaceuticals that we see.”

Medical cannabis can help with symptoms of chronic pain, chemotherapy, PTSD and various other ailments. It’s often called the “plant of a thousand medicines,” Lehfeldt said, because of its variety of purposes.

“I think anybody can walk in here — from a pediatric patient to an 80-year-old — and find something that’s able to really improve their quality of life, help with pain symptoms, help them sleep or aid in mental health,” she said.

Green Goods has full-time pharmacists in store to help patients choose what would work best for them. The process of finding the right dose, THC and CBD ratio and form of cannabis is usually something patients work out at a dispensary rather than with their doctor. Doctors cannot prescribe cannabis — they can only refer them to get their medical cards.

“Everybody’s different. I mean, some people want high THC. Some people want to try out terpenes, which are non-specific to cannabis plants,” she said. “We really want to make this experience not overwhelming because there are so many different formulations and different add-ons.”

In order to assist different groups who might have obstacles in obtaining medical cannabis, Green Goods offers a 20 percent discount for seniors 65 and older on Thursdays and a 22 percent discount for veterans every day through Initiative 22, a Baltimore-based nonprofit.

Eryck Stamper, founder of Initiative 22, chose the number 22 to represent the number of veterans who die every day by suicide. He served in the Navy for 23 years and has been advocating for cannabis legislation for years. One of the main hurdles to veterans’ access to cannabis is affordability, he said.

“This medicine is quite expensive. I personally spend $1,500 monthly, $18,000 annually with my disability check from the military,” Stamper said. “It all goes towards my medicine.”

Another hurdle to access is a law that states individuals who have gun licenses cannot obtain medical cannabis cards and vice versa due to cannabis’ Schedule 1 status. This prohibits many veterans and other gun owners from obtaining access to cannabis. House Bill 415, which is currently in the Maryland House of Delegates, could change that.

There’s also federal law on the table. The MORE Act could also de-schedule cannabis completely. It was passed by the House in a previous Congress but never made it through the Senate. The measure could stand a better chance with a Democratic majority now, according to an article in Forbes.

The state’s House Bill 32, which would have put criminal justice reforms into place and change state regulation of marijuana use, did not make it through crossover in the House last week.

But both Stamper and Lehfeldt are optimistic about the future.

“We really want to welcome the Frederick community as much as possible, pairing with local businesses just really showing patients this is an alternative to a lot of pharmaceuticals,” Lehfeldt said.

Follow Erika Riley on Twitter: @ej_riley

(35) comments

bosco

One toke over the line, sweet Jesus

One toke over the line

Sitting downtown in a railway station

One toke over the line

gabrielshorn2013

Straight people don't know

what you're about

They put you down

and shut you out

You gave to me

a new belief

And soon the world

will love you sweet leaf

PurplePickles aka L&M

I bet it's frustrating knowing that right now (hopefully House Bill 415 gets passed) you can't be a legal cannabis consumer, you know because you are a licensed gun owner? Now veterans I really feel for....but you want to be a law abiding citizen, but you can't because the laws are stopping you from consuming cannabis legally right?

I know you would never break the law...

Me I'm not frustrated.....but I guess it's all about what you value. But I agree straight people don't know what it's all about.....they never did.

gabrielshorn2013

No pickles, not frustrating at all. I have not tasted the sweet leaf in several decades, and can answer question 21(e) truthfully; "Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?" No, I do(am) not. That doesn't mean that I don't think placing cannabis as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance is stupid. It was then, and is now. I have been a staunch supporter of legalization for decades. However, career matters more than getting high, and I can be asked to pee in a cup by my employer at any time, and dismissed if found to test positive for any illegal substance. Legalization in Maryland, or any other state will not change that. Anyone employed by a firm that has any Federal contracts, no matter how big or small, or which company location those contracts are in, must abide by the Federal law.

BTW, that lyric is from Black Sabbath Vol. 4.

gabrielshorn2013

Correction, "Masters of Reality", 1971

PurplePickles aka L&M

We ended up at the Grand hotel

It was empty cold and bare

But with the Rolling-truck-Stones-thing just outside

Making our music there

With a few red lights, a few old beds

We make a place to sweat

No matter what we get out of this

Ha, I know, I know we'll never forget

Smoke on the water, fire in the sky

Smoke on the water

Deep Purple.....

PurplePickles aka L&M

BTW "Smoke on the Water" is a song by the English rock band Deep Purple. It was first released on their 1972 album Machine Head.

Smoke On the Water meaning

https://www.lyricinterpretations.com/deep-purple/smoke-on-the-water

phydeaux994

Now here is what I am talking about. A product that all you youngsters indulged in, illegally, and some that do now, and claim to be harmless, is strictly regulated across the Nation. It is still illegal unless you can con some Doctor into saying your physical deficiencies qualify you to REGISTER as being decrepit enough to purchase it in small quantities to soothe your muddled minds. But REGISTER a lethal firearm capable of killing multiple human beings in seconds.....OMG, how could you violate our Right to own as many weapons of mass destruction, anonymously, as we desire!!!! UNBELIEVABLE!!!! That makes no dang sense????

gabrielshorn2013

@ phydeaux994 Apr 1, 2021 4:44pm

I'd try to explain the differences to you phy, and they are significant, but you wouldn't listen anyway. So, like you, I'll ignore your questions. Why waste my time?

gabrielshorn2013

@ PurplePickles aka L&M Apr 1, 2021 4:35pm

Yep. I didn't think you were old enough to know that. My bad.

gabrielshorn2013

And phy, just because a doctor in a state where it is legal may prescribe it, you could still be fired for using it if your employer wanted to. It's still a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

PurplePickles aka L&M

@gabe

it's cool...I'm not ashamed to show my age, nor are you I see? Each year that goes by my perspective grows, which is why I know you so well, even though I don't really know you....I've met you a thousand times already and I will meet you a thousand times more.

phydeaux994

Sure gab, that’s jsk’s favorite dodge when he doesn’t have a reasonable retort to a comment. The old “You’re too stupid to understand” or “you won’t listen so why waste my time” trick. Actually, I’d love to hear a few of your myriad of differences in those two issues. Oh well.

gabrielshorn2013

Phy, you're a hypocrite. You refuse to answer my questions, and when I play your game, suddenly there is a problem with that. I have always answered your questions before. How about you doing the same.

newspostreader

I have no problems with this for medical use. I've seen it greatly reduce pain for cancer patients. With that said, we couldn't come up with a better name than "Green Goods". You'd think you'd want a medical dispensary to be professional and "Green Goods" just sounds like a place where you can go get some recreational hits.

Frayou

My understanding there are no independent scientific studies for long term effects of either medical or recreational Cannabis use. It seems rational for politicians and government authorities should insist this be done prior to approving. But, unfortunately they only care about the potential tax benefits, same as with the other legitimized vises. I fear we will be looking at another tragedy similar to the opioids down the road. Oh well, no concern government will just pass medical relief legislation to address and blame the businesses and or medical institutions.

shiftless88

Have you considered that perhaps your understanding is incorrect?

fredneck

Just what we need on the golden mile. What a joke.

shiftless88

If it is a successful business, what's the problem?

joelp77440

On the Biden example. Previous and current drug use is a question on federal employment background checks. Feds like myself will never be able to try this shop which is ok. Was never really into drugs or prescriptions pills so I will live.

PurplePickles aka L&M

Yeah that's a shame you can't at least try cannabis. I know if you have a top secret clearance and you lie about having used cannabis things can get sticky so it's best to never put yourself in the position of having to lie about using cannabis, but maybe the feds will change their stance one day? I mean if we become a nation of cannabis consumers who will there be left...???

bosco

Slick Willie admitted to trying it, but he claimed he didn't inhale. Of course, he also claimed he never had sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

public-redux

“ Of course, he also claimed he never had sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

And a clear majority of young Americans agreed the president. Who can ever forget the firing of the JAMA editor for publishing an article documenting that most college students didn’t regard oral sex as “sex”.

https://apnews.com/article/6705d652f4dc0dc2d7a243885e65c161

artandarchitecture

I doubt the federal government will ever legalize recreational cannabis. It's a very convenient way for the federal government to do away with people they don't like.

On 3/19/2021 several of Biden's White House staffers were asked to resign or were demoted for previous marijuana use — regardless of whether those employees had been in one of the 14 states where the drug is legal. Previous admitted pot user, V.P. Kamala Harris, had no opinion on the decision.

sevenstones1000

You have a link to that?

snallygaster

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/5-white-house-staffers-lose-jobs-over-drugs-marijuana-use/2021/03/19/45f2402e-88cf-11eb-be4a-24b89f616f2c_story.html

PurplePickles aka L&M

there were additional factors at play in many instances for the small number of individuals who were terminated...so it wasn't just because of cannabis use.

shiftless88

It is crazy that pot is illegal. Thank conservative republicans for that; they don't want the government involved in peoples' lives unless those people are doing something with which they do not agree.

MD1756

It's crazy that people waste their money on something that alters their mind and then drive. We already have enough problems with alcohol we don't need to add to it. We most assuredly don't need to waste any tax payer money to address problems that will arise from legalizing marijuana.

LAR1

Yes, both drinkers and smokers will drive, which is a shame. At least the smokers will be mellow, not violent like the drinkers. I see that as an improvement.

shiftless88

Weed is less harmful than alcohol so let's stop being silly and inconsistent, shall we?

PurplePickles aka L&M

Before you knock it you should try it....no one has ever died from consuming too much cannabis remember that. Now alcohol that's a different story you can die from drinking too much alcohol.

We have some pretty strict DUI laws that stop most responsible alcohol consumers from drinking and driving...but there are a few that slip through the cracks, and the law does deal with those few pretty harshly, and of course your car insurance is going to go sky high if you can even get car insurance, for the most part laws do keep responsible drinkers off the road ways.

Pretty sure we can enact some pretty strict DUI laws for cannabis consumers too..if we really need to, but for the most part in order to be able to keep consuming cannabis, cannabis consumers are going to behave. Because once you've tried cannabis you are going to want to keep consuming cannabis.

shiftless88

It's posts like this that make me laugh at the meme posted often by conservatives I know on FB. The old "conservatives think if you don't like something, then don't do it instead of cancelling it". I keep pointing out that conservatives pretty much invented cancel culture

PurplePickles aka L&M

@shiftless

Did you ever watch disjointed on Netflix? It's still on Netflix. If you haven't you should..it was disjointed but I think that was the point....?

public-redux

shiftless, I remember reading, decades ago, that drug laws were often driven by which demographic groups were associated with the drug. Opium -Chinese immigrants. MJ - Hispanics. Alcohol -- northern Europeans. And blue laws often were instituted after Germans immigrated into an area. A popular Sunday activity in that community was gathering in the town square park to picnic, drink beer, and listen to music from a band in the gazebo.

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