Maryland's long-delayed medical marijuana program will finally begin sales of medical marijuana this fall, and a wave of new businesses are starting up to assist patients in getting their medicine. In order to receive a medical marijuana card in the state, a patient must receive a written certification from a doctor that they already have a “bona fide provider-patient” relationship with. Because of this rule, some patients whose doctors are opposed to medical cannabis, or who have not yet registered as providers, may find themselves unable to get a recommendation.

Several new businesses are springing up to assist patients in situations like these. “A lot of physicians aren’t comfortable recommending medical cannabis to their patients currently,” said Dr. Evan Edwards of Green Health Docs in Frederick. “But patients want to get into the program, so we’re here to help them out.” For $200, the business will examine a patient's records to see if they qualify for medical marijuana.

Green Health Docs has been open for less than a year, but has already helped around 1,000 patients gain access to medical cannabis. Dr. Edwards said that many of these patients are suffering from chronic pain, and looking for a non-addictive alternative to opioids. “They’ll start using opioids for their back pain or after surgery, and a fair amount actually become addicted to them, and move on to heroin and overdosing,” he said. “We’re helping a lot of people dealing with chronic pain with a safer alternative with cannabis.”

Medical professionals are starting to recognize that medical cannabis can effectively treat a wide range of ailments. “MS patients have a better quality of life,” Dr. Thomas Bellavia said. “People with glaucoma do much better, and especially for people who have been in auto accidents [who are] in chronic pain, it really does a great job for them.”