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The Taming of Demon Weed

How medical marijuana got to be a legal Bay Weekly story 

     Are you a little shocked to find yourself reading a big story on medical cannabis in Bay Weekly? The spectrum on this topic flashes with opinions like a pinball machine when a high-scoring game’s in progress. So in case you’re uncomfortable, let me tell you what I’m thinking.
      In the first place, aren’t you a little curious? 
     We in the newspaper business are curious about everything. If you’ve happened to fall into conversation with one of us, you know that question will follow question until we’ve learned more about you, perhaps about some special aspect of your life, than even your family may know. As an only child I, for example, want to know all about your brothers and sisters. If you’re a twin, I’m more curious still. 
     I think it’s true of all of us, not just journalists, that things furthest from our experience draw us closer in curiosity.
     Forbidden things just may make us our most curious. 
     Marijuana has been forbidden in the United States for almost 82 years. For many of those illegal years, it’s been stigmatized as demon weed, an unpredictable drug that might cause you to behave in strange, even terrible ways.
     Really? Is that true? Or not true?
     With marijuana, we’re also dealing with the odd experience of metamorphosis. Suddenly something that was one thing is another. Caterpillars are butterflies. Black is white.
     Starting with California (that’s no surprise) in 1996, state after state changed its laws on ­marijuana, with Maryland jumping on the bandwagon in 2014, until now 32 states and the District of Columbia have decided that marijuana is a good drug.
     Doesn’t that titillate your curiosity just a little?
     Suddenly, stores selling marijuana are opening all around us. Medical cannabis dispensaries, to adopt the new parlance, stretch from Allegany County to Cecil to Dorchester. In farms, production facilities and delivery trucks as well as dispensaries, this new reality is our neighbor. 
      That’s a second reason I wrote and you’re reading about medical marijuana. There’s wisdom in the principle that plain sight is the best hiding place. Looking into what’s so visible among us that it’s dismissed is one of our missions at Bay Weekly. We ask such questions as what’s happening with your stormwater … what’s the deal with all those clothing drop-off boxes that have sprung up in the mode of Planet Aid … and, upcoming for Earth Day, our 26th birthday, what’s really recyclable and what’s trash.
     Maryland’s burgeoning medical cannabis industry — for that’s what it amounts to — falls smack into that category. Like it or not, it’s here. That makes us, its neighbors, responsible to learn what it’s all about. For whether marijuana is a danger or not, ignorance certainly is.
     One more thing about these new neighbors: They’re highly secretive. They keep their doors locked, and guards patrol the premises night and day. 
     Who doesn’t want to know what’s behind a closed door? 
     I do, and that was part of my motivation in seeing the patient certification that opens those doors to me.
     I hope you do want to know, because that’s where I take you in Pot-Shopping to Cure What Ails You. 
     As to what you’re likely to find in a new Maryland medical cannabis dispensary, I promise to satisfy your curiosity as well as can be done with words and a few pictures — no smell or taste tests here. I won’t steal my story’s thunder except to tell you it’s a lot more than you likely ever imagined. You know how America is: Give us a raw material, and we discover many things can be done with it. Dispensaries are not quite supermarkets; but they do style themselves as delis.
     Though idle curiosity is always good enough for me, it’s possible that you may be reading this story for better reasons. If you’re one of the many people seeking a way, or perhaps a better way, to cope with pain, I offer guidance through the process you can use to gain your own entry to a Maryland medical cannabis dispensary.
     What I can’t know or tell is whether marijuana is right for you. Even your doctor may not be able to give you that answer. The great uncharted territory of medical cannabis is who it will help, how and in what formulation. Even with the necessary doctor’s certification, if you enter that territory, you will be self-mediating.
     The law thinks it’s safe enough to try. Do you? That decision is largely up to you.