It’s a strange, uncertain time for cannabis. While Colorado receives national attention for its robust medical and recreational marijuana markets, many places on the East Coast are still trying to open their first dispensaries. Following the passage of an actual workable medical cannabis law last year, Maryland is set to issue licenses for 15 cultivation centers (with no cap on number of plants allowed) and 94 dispensaries, along with an unlimited number of production facilities for edibles and concentrates in the coming months. Weekend Review Kit sat down with Danny Krotz of Bay Area Remedies, one of the teams that hopes to bring organic cannabis to medical patients in Maryland, about what made him choose this business, what the application process has been like, his commitment to patient care, and, most pressingly, when patients will finally be able to buy cannabis in Maryland.
Weekend Review Kit: What made you decide to try and get involved in the cannabis industry?
Danny Krotz: I had always been a supporter, I had always been an activist, and I wanted put my efforts toward building a business out of it. I think a lot of people will be trying to get into this industry with the wrong intentions, and I want to be one of the people who has the right intentions. So I think that was a big motivating factor.
I also see it as an emerging industry, just like alcohol prohibition, there were some dynasties built through that, and I want to be a part of that, and I want to do it right. I want to support those people that need to be supported. I want to give them a product that they can really rely on, to know that it’s not covered in pesticides, that it’s safe, that’s it’s helping them the way they want it to be. I think that was the biggest motivating factor for me.
WRK: What steps have you had to take so far to get ready for the application process?
DK: It started with Pot Barons of Colorado. In the beginning my partner and I were just trying to figure out how we could do this. At the time I was getting ready to dive into commercial real estate, and my business partner was running a global company dealing with thousands of customers a month, so we both had our hands full in different things. And it wasn’t until that television show that we really started thinking we could do this, so it just took one phone call to say, “Are we going to do this?” And he said, “Yeah, I’m going to do it.” At that moment we dropped everything we had been working for, and we just started researching the dispensaries in DC. It’s almost crazy for us to try and model ourselves off a company in Colorado or California, because it’s such a different market. We have to find something similar to what we’re trying to produce, just from a business standpoint.
There are three, so we hopped on the Metro and we started visiting all three of them, aware that we weren’t really allowed into any of them because we aren’t medical patients. In the first one we were just shooed away, but the second one really turned out to be most important people to help us in those first few months. At that point we started to realize it was possible, based on the things they were telling us. The last one basically told us to go away. But that one dispensary made us believe that it was possible, and they talked to us about what was necessary to get started in this business.
So we decided the hardest parts were going to be a. finding people with the right experience, because I don’t have experience growing marijuana, and b. finding the money. We thought those would be the two hardest things. We looked at business plans made public by other companies in other states, we looked at consultant companies, and then we looked at the [medical cannabis] commission in Maryland and the progress they were making with the laws. At the time we knew they were making progress, but we didn’t really know how much.
Those same people [that gave us advice initially] helped us find our team. They helped us find a grower. So we found a grower from California who’s been growing for over 25 years. They helped us find a dispensary manager who has experience with some of the biggest shops in California.
And then, it was crazy, I made one phone call seeking capital, it happened to be the only phone call I needed to make, and the person said, “I’ve been thinking about doing this as well, for about a year now.” So he asked for a number, we gave him a number, and he said okay. From there we got really serious.
I don’t have time to work on anything else right now. I’m living off savings. It’s somewhat nerve-wracking to be working so hard when, in four months, you could possibly not get a license, and then you’re going back to what you did before. But we have a lot of confidence in our team.
WRK: Will you stay in the industry regardless?
DK: I’ve become way too passionate about the plant, and passionate and knowledgeable about the people who use the plant, so if I don’t get a license I’ll either apply again in 2018 or I’ll start some sort of ancillary business, because I’m committed to staying in this industry.
I’m not as concerned with how much we’ll make, because I know it’s there. There’re so many other things to think about besides how much money you can make.
I run the Anne Arundel County chapter of NORML, and you start meeting these people who really, really need it, and they look into your eyes with desperation, and you can tell that they really do need it. That shifted my focus off the money, and I thought: Wow, if I get a license I have a responsibility at this point to really help these people. That’s been my main focus recently.
WRK: What can you tell us about how the licenses will be awarded? Will it be like a lottery? Or the NBA draft?
DK: There’s going to be two licenses per [legislative] district, so you’re going to have a lot of people applying where there’s the most population. You could have 30 people applying for Baltimore City, and they’re only giving out two of those licenses. And they have a whole grading structure, which is outlined on their website. They’re considering everything from your overall plan for quality control and quality assurance, to your security plan, to your previous work history, not having felony drug convictions on your record, ability to create a drug free work environment. And they’re not really telling you right now what’s the most important. So we’re all just putting together 100-page business plans. And that’s why people are paying consulting companies to write it for them, because the business plan does requires a certain type of writing, almost like a law document.
I really feel like Maryland is trying to learn from the states that came before them and implement the best system possible. The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission was sitting through a lot of the same seminars we were about the endocannabinoid system and really getting into some deep stuff. Everyone seems committed to educating themselves so they aren’t making laws they don’t understand.
There’s going to be a third party system that will oversee the awarding of the license to prevent any conflicts of interest, and no one knows who they are. They’ll be making unbiased decisions, which is great, so it won’t necessarily be the people with the most money who get the licenses.
WRK: The topic of homegrows is often one of contention. Do you think Maryland should allow people to cultivate in their homes?
DK: I can understand from a business standpoint, and even from a quality control standpoint, why you might want to prevent that. Because a lot of people don’t have the expertise to grow, so maybe they shouldn’t. But from a moral standpoint, I think everyone should have the right to grow a plant out of the ground if they want to. You should be allowed to do that. So I’m totally for homegrows. You’re not going to be able to grow 30 different varieties, and most people won’t be able produce the kind of edibles and concentrates a dispensary will have in their homes. I’m totally for your right to grow in your home.
WRK: Your company has a commitment to organic cannabis. Why do you feel that’s important?
DK: When something’s been grown organically, you can tell. It’s smooth. You don’t have the harshness [when you inhale], the taste is better, and I really believe you feel clean after you’ve consumed something organic.
WRK: What would your dream dispensary look like?
DK: If I designed it the way I want to, it wouldn’t be allowed because they’re putting so many restrictions on how you can set up the space. I think it’d be a cross between a modern pharmacy and a holistic healing center. Because I think the experience is an important part of it, along with the quality of the medicine. It can’t really be much more elaborate than that. There will be a large waiting room in a really comfortable setting, with a little sign in window, and then another smaller room to dispense. I want it to be as relaxed as possible, which is going to be a little bit difficult with they way they have to be set up.
WRK: If there were no restrictions, and you could do whatever you wanted?
DK: I enjoy food; you could say I’m a foodie. I would love to incorporate food somehow, sell flower on the side, and provide people with a place to stay and enjoy the community and the people, bringing people together through the plant.
WRK: The question that I’m sure is on your mind, as well as on the minds of patients waiting for the medicine they need, is when can we expect medical dispensaries to actually open in Maryland?
WRK: There’s so much speculation, and there’s no real timeline. That’s the hard part right now. The commission has said their next meeting will be in July and the one after that will be in September. So people are speculating that the applications will be out in five to six months; then it will probably be a month or two before we get the responses. We hope to have our license in eight to ten months. Then there’ll be the build out [of the cultivation facility], and that will take a few months. After that comes growing, and that’s going to take at least 90 days. So I think the best-case scenario is the middle of 2016. That would be the earliest.
But there is always a lot happening, so who knows? It could speed up. Maybe next April, maybe in a year.