Marylanders have only been allowed to purchase medical cannabis since 2017. Since then, medical cannabis has been used to treat anxiety, insomnia, arthritis and nausea. While the state has not historically supported its dispersal, recent laws have decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis, as well as paraphernalia. In 2019, Baltimore City’s state’s attorney vowed to end prosecutions for marijuana possession and vacate thousands of previous possession convictions.
If you’re not familiar with the plant’s forms and functions, consider this your comprehensive guide. After speaking with Wendy Bronfein, chief brand officer and director of public policy of Curio Wellness, and Jaclyn Dolaway, owner of Pure Life Wellness, I realized this alternative medicine offers a lot to learn.
CBD is legal across the United States when derived from hemp, or cannabis with a negligible amount of THC—the part of cannabis that produces the effect of feeling high. Medical cannabis has been found effective in alleviating symptoms of medical conditions that do not respond to traditional interventions and produces far fewer and much less severe side effects than commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs.
Medical cannabis comprises several dosage forms including inhalation products (flowers, vape and concentrates), topical, sublingual (tablets and tinctures), ingestible (tablets, capsules, medicated chews and elixirs) and edibles (food or beverages).
“The type of dosage forms a patient will use typically aligns with their therapeutic need,” says Bronfein. “Patients looking to have a fast-acting effect may choose an inhaled product or something absorbed in the mouth. For longer-lasting effects, a patient may ingest and digest the medicine as well as use it topically.”
Bronfein further adds that the goal is helping patients find a product that best aligns with alleviating their therapeutic concerns and fits with their level of experience and lifestyle.
“Working with a patient care advisor, at a dispensary, patients can align the best product with their needs,” she says.
Oil tinctures are ideal for seniors, Dolaway notes, while edibles or topicals may be better suited to those who prefer not to smoke.
“Edibles give more of a heavy body high and typically last anywhere between four to eight hours, depending on the patient,” Bronfein explains.
Effectiveness varies from person to person and depends on factors such as one’s diet, tolerance and digestive system.
Smoking, on the other hand, has the quickest onset—usually less than five minutes—with effects lasting about one to two hours. The primary advantage of this form is that it has the largest selection of strains and varieties to choose from, while its main disadvantage is that its odor makes it less discreet, Dolaway says.
Smoking cannabis may also be harmful to the lungs. Studies provide conflicting evidence of whether and the extent to which doing so may cause lung damage, but combustion of any substance makes it harder to breathe.
Vaporizing, or vaping, delivers instant relief and is less harsh on the lungs, but devices, which range from fancy home units to pocket-sized pens, can be expensive. Edibles, the most popular method among seniors, provide long-lasting relief packaged in a tasty treat, although the effects can take half an hour to several hours to kick in. Additionally, edibles in Maryland are restricted to a 10 mg dose.
What else should consumers take into account when evaluating their choices?
“Patients should consider the cultivator or processor relative to the reliability of their product, the consistency of its
availability and any third-party validation of the quality or standards applied to their cultivation and processing protocols,” says Bronfein. “Patients should also consider the dispensary of purchase. How robust
is the product mix? How knowledgeable is the staff to help guide the patient to a therapeutic solution. Do they offer educational workshops and promotions?”
To purchase medical marijuana, one must first register with Maryland via the One Stop website. This website allows individuals to obtain a patient ID number. With a patient ID number, you can schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment with a certified provider using the directory available on the Maryland Health Care Commission’s website. Upon completion of the appointment with the certifying provider, one is certified and eligible to shop at a licensed Maryland dispensary.
“Cannabis is a great natural alternative to prescription medications. We really have something for everyone in all walks of life,” Dolaway says.
While Maryland is likely to join the 19 states where medical cannabis is fully legalized in the next few years, for now, its dispensaries might just be the answer for those who have exhausted traditional medicinal remedies.
Registration to become a medical cannabis patient in Maryland: mmcc.maryland.gov/Pages/patients_regisadult.aspx
“The 7 Types of Cannabis Products Available in Maryland”: getheally.com/patients/news/cannabis- products-available-in-maryland
“Top Ways of Consuming Medical Marijuana”: unitedpatientsgroup.com/resources-methods-of-consumption