By Rick Ritter

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — From controversy to reality. There’s been a huge step forward for medical marijuana in Maryland.

The state’s first dispensary was approved Wednesday by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, and the Frederick facility could have the drug available in a matter of weeks.

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Thousands have already signed up with the state to register for medical marijuana, and The Wellness Institute of Maryland is already hearing from patients.

“We are thrilled,” says Mike, the company’s owner. He tells WJZ’s Rick Ritter that he thinks of it more like a doctor’s office.

“We would prefer that no one walk in off the street,” he says. “We’re not a store, we’re a medical facility.”

Registered patients who make appointments check in at the front, then meet with a cannabis professional where they’ll take a look at their options.

Mike says their niche is patients who continue to suffer, and might be on the fence about using medical marijuana, “who can reduce their pain dramatically and in some instances, even eliminate it.”

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The institute is just one of 102 dispensaries handpicked by the cannabis commission in December to receive preliminary licenses.

Mike says he sees it as an opportunity to change lives.

“It’s about as close to anything I’ve ever heard of, except for an Aspirin, to being a miracle drug.”

The Wellness Institute of Maryland are just doing paperwork for the time being. Cannabis won’t be available there until September at the earliest.

Right now, only one firm is authorized to grow medical marijuana in Maryland. A vote has been delayed for a second grower.

On Thursday, Governor Larry Hogan overhauled the state’s medical marijuana regulating agency, appointing 10 new members to a panel that’s been under fire for months. He filled vacant positions and replaced six commissioners whose terms had expired.

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Rick Ritter