TIMONIUM, Md. (WJZ) — In early April, Maryland lawmakers voted to let voters decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana in November.
Currently 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, have fully legalized marijuana. In Maryland, possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana is a civil violation that carries a fine of up to $100 for a first offense.READ MORE: Gervonta Davis, Longtime Trainers, Ready For Main Event Showdown
But Maryland also has about 150,000 registered cannabis patients. Medical cannabis has grown into a $600-million-a-year industry in Maryland since the first pre-rolled joint was sold legally in 2017.
And, as more Marylanders become registered to purchase cannabis, the medical cannabis industry becomes even bigger.
One of the leaders in the industry is Baltimore’s very own medical cannabis company, Curio Wellness. Maryland’s largest medical cannabis brand isn’t just growing cannabis–it’s cornering the market from seed to sale, cultivating plants and making products like gummies and sleep aids.
Curio offered WJZ an exclusive look at its newly expanded cultivation site, a 155,000-square-foot facility in Baltimore County. To give you a sense of the facility’s scope, it’s roughly the size of two and a half football fields.
Inside are rooms of cannabis plants as far as they eye can see, proof of just how much this industry is booming.
“We believe in the therapeutic value of this plant,” said Wendy Bronfein, co-founder and chief brand officer of Curio Wellness, who added that the company’s products have the ability to improve quality of life for customers she refers to as patients.
Vice President of Cultivation Farai Madziva calls Curio’s facility the Rolls Royce of cannabis growing.
“We can control humidity, we can control temperature, we can control C02, we can control the light levels,” said Madziva, who noted that this ability allows them to produce a high-quality plant on a consistent basis.
The cannabis plant growing process begins with plant cuttings Madziva calls “plant babies.” After a few weeks, the plants move into another room for their next stages where they’re prepared to be able to carry flowers, or the teenage phase. During the third and final stage, adult plants are moved to another room, ready to begin the flowering process where they’ll produce buds, or as Madviza calls them, babies.
“The adult plants which are going through the flowering stage, are ready to be harvested,” said Madziva.READ MORE: Maryland Weather: Mix Of Sun & Clouds
Cannabis flowers are harvested and dried for about a month, then bagged up and moved to Curio’s processing site nearby.
The plant material is ground up and moved into extraction equipment, extracting high concentrated THC and other cannabinoid oil. Curio says this is the best way to extract from this plant because it’s FDA approved, very clean and there aren’t any solvents. And by turning cannabis plants into oil, it allows them to produce the same level of THC every single time.
“Every tablet should have 5 milligrams of THC in it, if that’s the specification and with oil, we’re able to do that very specifically,” said Zach Hall, extraction manager at Curio Wellness. “You want to make sure that you’re giving people the medicine that they expect so you wouldn’t want to give someone 10 doses of Tylenol if they were expecting one, same thing here, you wouldn’t want to give someone 10 doses of medical cannabis if they were expecting only one.”
And its oil is their secret sauce in everything Curio produces.
“They extract the oil from that flower to make our chews, our goodnight tablets, vapes,” Bronfein said.
Curio now sells to 91 dispensaries in Maryland, where you need a medical cannabis card to buy most of the products.
But Bronfein says the company’s work is about helping their customers, or patients, “whether it’s mental health, whether it’s a chronic condition, God forbid it’s some sort of terminal illness, anything we can do to improve the quality of life is what we’re looking to achieve with our products.”
It’s a mission Bronfein believes Curio is perfectly primed to do in Maryland, a state that is no stranger to medical innovation. “We have Hopkins…we have MedStar, we have LifeBridge, we have NIH–we are really poised to be the epicenter of the medical cannabis evolution,” she said.
But before the medical cannabis industry can run, Curio is perfecting its walk, building an empire the state and its employees can be proud of.
“The work that we do is about people and we say, ‘happy people, happy plants,'” said Madziva.MORE NEWS: Traffic Advisory For US 50 East Before Bay Bridge