Baltimore – Today marks the day when Cecil County will find out whether its future will be green, benefitting economically from the development of potential medical marijuana growing and processing facilities.
The Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, under the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which was formed by 2014 legislation to develop policies, procedures and regulations to implement the states medical marijuana program, voted on its stage one license pre-approvals for 15 growers and the first 15 processors on Aug. 5.
None of the applicants to receive the groundbreaking approvals were publicly identified, however, as those selected then underwent a stringent financial and legal background check. This afternoon, the commission will publicly identify those who will receive the licenses and kickstart a process of permitting and building across the state for the winners.
While 15 grower and processor licenses will be issued initially, state law allows for only two to locate in a single senatorial district, meaning Cecil County could have a potential for four such operations.
According to a Washington Post analysis of applicants to the state commission, at least three of the 144 grower applicants have specifically stated plans to locate in Cecil County, including Citiva Maryland LLC, led by a former Syracuse, N.Y., police chief who serves on a prescription drug abuse advisory task force; LMS Wellness BLLC, whose security director, King Wilson White Jr., was once a Baltimore narcotics detective; and Pharmhouse LLC, whose chief executive Rohan Malhotra is a former Drexel law student.
Numerous other applicants did not specify where they planned to locate in the state, meaning Cecil County has a much bigger potential stake in the financial investments by such operations. At least two applicants that did not specify – The Clinic Maryland LLC and Freestate Wellness LLC – met with county leaders prior to submitting their paperwork to discuss possible placements.
The Cecil County Council sent a generic letter to the state licensing commission informing them the county has proper zoning in place for these operations and would welcome them to the county. County officials said the applicants they met with included a mixture of local and out-of-state prospects with most seeking a facility that would grow and process medical marijuana. They discussed locations around the county, estimated they could create between 30 and 50 jobs and none asked for government concessions.
The only county requirement in the process would be proper zoning. Growing-only operations can be located in agriculture zoning, but any processing plant must be in an industrial zone.
While Cecil County stands to gain much, some of its citizens are also involved in the process outside of its border. Chief among them may be former Cecil County Sheriff Barry Janney, who is listed as the security head for True Health Chesapeake LLC, an applicant that looks to build a cultivation facility near Jarrettsville in Harford County.
Janney chose not to seek re-election in 2014 after serving 12 years as sheriff and is currently the director of the Community Adult Rehabilitation Center, the Cecil County Detention Centers work release program.
On Friday, Janney said he was approached by members of the True Health Chesapeake team last year. With 37 years of law enforcement experience in the Maryland State Police and Cecil County Sheriffs Office, along with some time as a loss prevention officer as a side job, Janney said he was excited by the idea of a new challenge.
This team of investors was putting their team together and my name popped up, because security plays a very important role in this application process, he said, noting the initial contact was made through Dan Whitehurst, a former Cecil County developer for Clark Turner Homes and member of True Health Chesapeakes investment team. So I sent in a resume, and they called me in. They interviewed me and I interviewed them, because I wanted to make sure it was done by the book, professionally. I walked away thinking this was a top-notch team.
Janney, who actively testified against the decriminalization of marijuana as the countys top law enforcement officer, said he remains against the legalization of pot, but has come to recognize its benefits as a prescription drug.
Im not for recreational, but I do support medical, he said. I knew people who were dying of cancer and this was something they could have used to ease their pain. And theres other instances where it can treat epileptic seizures in children.
The fact that True Health Chesapeake is led by developer Joshua Dresher, whose familys Dresher Family Birthplace in Bel Air was where Janneys grandson was recently born, helped the former sheriff grow comfortable with becoming attached to the project, he said.
Hes an entrepreneur, a Christian, just the kind of guy that you want to sit and listen to, Janney said. I made it very clear that because these regulations are so strict that I wont deviate from them. And he said thats why he selected me because he wanted it done by the book.
Janney said that he believed the fact that the applicants are Marylanders rather than outsiders helps their application.
We live here and our families are here, so we want to make sure this is done right maybe more so than someone coming in from California, he said. A lot of the applicants put in for every county and I think that sets the wrong tone for the commission. We know what we want to do.
Cecil County Sheriff Scott Adams told the Whig last week that if True Health Chesapeake receives a license and Janney signs a contract to work with the company, he would ask the CARC director to step down.
He was aware that was the stipulation going in. I cant tell him he cant do that, but if he was going to take that job than he would have to sever ties here, Adams said.
As the announcements approached though, Janney said he believed his team had a good chance of success.
I feel good about our chances, he said. Im excited because I would be getting in on the ground floor of this in Maryland if were lucky enough to get a license.