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Frederick County Council considers growing medical marijuana

Frederick County Council considers growing medical marijuana.

September 1, 2016

The massive, 67,000 square foot greenhouse, in Middletown, Maryland, equipped with huge sliding metal trays, is like a plant assembly line.

A line that, for the time being, is idled due to damage from a winter snowstorm.

Still, Larry Gude, whose family has grown ornamental flowers since 1889, has hope-- and a plan.

“Did you ever dream when you were a kid, just starting out, that you’d be growing medical marijuana?’ he was asked. “No,” Gude answered, chuckling. “In the culture then, it was pot, it was Woodstock and all that. I had no idea there were any medicinal purposes at all.”

How times have changed-- maybe.

The Frederick County Council is considering whether to approve the growing of medical marijuana in the area, as part of an eight-year pilot program.

But there are restrictions to the proposal.

"One hundred and ten I decided that the field probably was not going to fly with the farming community at all,” said M.C. Keegan-Ayer, the County Council Vice-President. “So I had it as a special exception in a greenhouse only.”

In other words, the public will not see open marijuana fields growing across the County.

Even so, not everyone like the plan.

The County Farm Bureau opposes the idea.

Others are concerned about security when growing cannabis.

“It's a very divisive topic,” said Kevin Klink, Gude’s property manager. “You mention the word cannabis or marijuana and they say no. No matter what you say, no.”

“Their argument is ‘we don't want this in Frederick County,’” Keegan-Ayer added.

She said individual farmers have expressed interest. But not everyone.

“You have people who still view marijuana as the drug of the sixties and seventies,” Keegan-Ayer said. “You have other people who see medicinal properties of the plant.”

Gude is a true believer: that medical marijuana is the cash crop of the future.

The going rate in states like Colorado is $2,000 a pound.

Gude believes he could cultivate about 5,000 pounds a year.

“The more I’ve learned about it, it is just a plant,” he said. “The idea of growing it in a greenhouse makes all the sense in the world.”

Supporters of the idea say medical marijuana can be genetically altered, by reducing the amount of THC, the chemical that makes users high, while increasing its healing medicinal properties.

Helping patients with seizures, Alzheimer's, PTSD, and other health issues.

Supporters say there is plenty of money to be made as well.

“Colorado brought in over $100 million in tax revenue just last year,” Klink said. “You're talking about thousands of dollars for a pound of this product that you can grow in a greenhouse.”

The County Council must vote on a bill that includes the new restrictions, including a provision that requires the marijuana be grown on land zoned for agriculture.

That vote will probably take place in late September.

Individual applicants must also have state license approval from the Maryland Cannabis Commission.

But Gude is optimistic.

“Now we seem to be coming, I think to our senses,” he said. “Looking at it from a truly medicinal standpoint and scientific standpoint and saying this works and here's why it works. This is a good thing.”