Maryland's First Medical Marijuana Dispensary Set to Open - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Maryland's First Medical Marijuana Dispensary Set to Open

Posted: 11/22/2017 08:01:00 -05:00 Updated:
Peninsula Alternative Health is located on Snow Hill Road in Salisbury. (Photo: WBOC) Peninsula Alternative Health is located on Snow Hill Road in Salisbury. (Photo: WBOC)

SALISBURY, Md.- The first medical marijuana dispensary on the Eastern Shore of Maryland could open within weeks in Salisbury. Other dispensaries are preparing to open as well, possibly next year. They will all do so with a unique set of challenges.

Peninsula Alternative Health on Snow Hill Road will be the first to open its doors to medicinal marijuana patients. CEO Anthony Darby says making the drug legal has been a long time coming.

"When I know that there is so much good to this medicine that can cause so much good, and help people with chronic pain that may have been offered an opiate, not knowing the full consequence when they could have been offered something as safe as medical marijuana, it just inspires us to fight the fight," Darby says.   

Darby is realistic that changing people's perceptions could take time.

"It's taking cannabis away from the counter-cultural activity, and making it mainstream," he said. 

Legal or not, Darby's product is still a drug, which some might associate with crime. None of the dispensaries preparing to open are near crowded residential areas, but there are other businesses nearby.  In nearby Worcester County, Maryland, there are two dispensaries awaiting final approval from the state. One would be located on Highway 50 between Berlin and Ocean City. The other is in West Ocean City just off Stephan Decatur Highway near the Teal Marsh Center. One local business owner there says she has no crime concerns.

"There is a police presence here already. If we call and they hear the street address, Teal Marsh, everybody comes pretty quick," says Beth Gismondi of Gismondi Insurance.

Another agrees, and says the business might actually be beneficial.

"I like it. I think the economic impact both for county and state far outweighs any preconceived notions that we might have about a marijuana dispensary," says Steve Kenny of Ocean Point Property Management.

In fact, some studies have shown the presence of medical marijuana dispensaries can have a positive effect on crime. One study cited increased foot traffic in the area, leading to "more eyes on the street," which can deter some types of crime. Darby says he has not had any pushback from the few neighboring businesses. By federal law, all forms of marijuana are illegal, and in some parts of the country, local law enforcement have used that to crack down on dispensaries.

"As long as they are in compliance, we will not have any issues from the law enforcement side," says Salisbury Police Chief Barbara Duncan. 

The Salisbury Police Department has consulted with Darby on security procedures to ensure public safety.

"From a systems perspective, it was our largest budget item, ensuring we put the best security system we can have in place," he said. "From a personnel side, we have a former law enforcement officer who is leaving the force and will work with us full-time."

In Delaware, a dispensary has been open near Lewes since May of this year, and Delaware State Police say they have not had any reports of crime in the area.   

Along with dispensaries, there will also be growers and processors on the peninsula. One grower is in Showell in Worcester County.  One of the owners of Shore Naturals RX says the company will have adequate security in place, and it is hoping to change the culture of marijuana.

"People have been through other forms of drugs, and they are looking for an herbal remedy that might actually be more effective, said Tim McGivern of Shore Naturals RX. "So, the reaction has been really open-mindedness."

Medical marijuana was actually approved in Maryland in 2013, but legal and bureaucratic issues have slowed its progress. In fact, there is no processed marijuana ready to be sold. That is what Peninsula Alternative Health is waiting on to open its doors.

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