Tucked away behind a barbed wire fence in Frederick, Maryland, lies one of the state’s largest cultivation facilities called Green Leaf Medical.
“I feel extremely lucky to have won a license,” said Philip Goldberg, CEO at Green Leaf Medical, LLC.
The company operates in a 45,000-square-foot facility with 28 employees who run the show behind Maryland’s medical marijuana scene.
Green Leaf Medical, LLC is one of only 15 companies awarded a license to grow pharmaceutical-grade cannabis in the state of Maryland after 2014 legislation made it legal for private companies to get involved.
According to Goldberg, getting to that point was not easy. “I was not a wealthy person going into this. I had to raise money from investors and it was difficult. Not to be funny but we were selling this as a pipe dream” Goldberg said.
However, that pipe dream eventually came true. On Friday, ABC7 News got rare access behind the scenes at Green Leaf Medical and an inside look at some of the work that goes into growing medical marijuana.
The facility has 24-hour armed security, a barbed wire fence and requires anyone who enters the building to have a form of identification. Several employees are restricted from entering certain areas in the facility and wear badges to get into the area where they work.
The government also keeps a close watch.
“The state of Maryland has access to a radio frequency ID on every plant,” Goldberg said. “This helps to monitor exactly how many plants we have, in which phase of growth and which room in the facility.”
Originally money might have been the motivation for the CEO who has been an entrepreneur for more than 20 years. Goldberg says that quickly changed after he started to form his entire business around patients who he became close with.
“We started to design our company around those patients,” Goldberg said. “As we began to testify and interview them, meet their children that are suffering. We added people to our board of advisers. One of those is doctor Maneesh Sharma, M.D., who is really interested in getting patients off of opiates. Dr. Paul Lyons, MD Ph.D is on our board. He’s a neurologist and one of the few doctors in the country with a schedule one license to use medical cannabis in human trials.
“When we tried to bring him into this company, we offered him a piece of the company and he said no. I’m in this because I want to return quality of life to the kids and their families.”
Goldberg says one harvest could produce up to 250 pounds of marijuana.
“There is so much therapeutic potential to unlock in these plants,” Goldberg said. “I find that fascinating that we are on the cutting edge here of breaking down what cannabinoids are present, which ones are helping patients and we are about to engage in a study. He has a massive pain practice. This is not just your run of the mill pill factory. He is going to take a few hundred of his pain management patients and we are going to reduce their opiate prescriptions and increases their medical cannabis prescription.”
Maryland also has strict lab testing on the product. “The labs are testing for residual pesticides, mold, heavy metals, E.coli. What we are putting out the patients can feel safe knowing that it has been testing.”
To date, Green Leaf Medical has produced three harvests and all have passed the test at 100 percent.
While medical marijuana is at the forefront across the country, so is another topic. Lawmakers have proposed a bill that would allow voters in Maryland to decide whether or not marijuana should be legal for recreational use.
Goldberg explained that for certain reasons he believes it should be legal. “Yes, we think that adult use is important to stop racially profiling and targeting, honestly young black males in Maryland. It’s really happening all over the country.”
However, many say it’s too early and more progress needs to be made first. Goldberg agrees.
“A lot of other states are moving faster than Maryland moved. It’s because they are basing much of their legislation on Maryland. Maryland had to do this from scratch. We believe it helps protect patients, it helps protect growers and physicians. We are much more focused on the medical here than the recreational.”