By Mike Hellgren


BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Maryland lawmakers opened the door to medical marijuana over three years ago.

While it still hasn’t made its way to patients, Michael Bronfein has spearheaded the effort to make medical marijuana available to those who need it.

Bronfein is the chief executive officer for Curio Wellness, one of 30 companies that just received state approval to grow and process the drug for patients’ consumption.

RELATED: Maryland Names Top Medical Marijuana Applicants

“This is a state where we appreciate the value of pioneering efforts in science and research that help people enjoy better lives,” said Bronfein, who cited the presence of Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland and the National Institutes of Health.

For years, people who contend traditional and pharmaceutical medicine doesn’t work for them, have lobbied for medical cannabis.

That includes Montel Williams, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, and has said repeatedly that he would have taken his own life had it not been for marijuana.

For others, like Stephanie Pippen, a mother of two children with epilepsy, it’s a matter of life and death.

“I love them very much, and I just pray to God that they wake up every day,” she told WJZ.

Gloria Gates, who has multiple sclerosis, said marijuana has been a miracle drug for her.

“It worked the very first time, and it’s been an absolute blessing for me,” said Gates.

Medical professionals have agreed it’s an effective way to treat chronic pain and symptoms of other illnesses and conditions.

RELATED: Access is Central To Maryland Medical Marijuana Program

“MS patients have a better quality of life, people with glaucoma do much better and especially for people who have been in auto accidents who have chronic pain, it really does a great job for them,” said Dr. Thomas Bellavia of Heights Medical Associates.

Just last week, however, federal regulators opted to keep marijuana classified as a Schedule I drug akin to LSD and heroin, saying it has no medical benefit.

“It’s not about danger,” said Chuck Rosenberg, acting administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency. “Stuff in Schedule I could be really dangerous or not as dangerous. What it has in common is not the level of danger, it’s whether or not it’s a safe or effective medicine.”

Still, federal regulators may not be able to hold off the tide of public opinion for long. In a recent CBS poll, an overwhelming 87 percent of those surveyed said doctors should be allowed to prescribe marijuana for medical use.

Access to medical marijuana in Maryland, meanwhile, could come as soon as next summer.

“People are going to just need to be patient because it’s important we do it right the first time,” said Bronfein.

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