MITCH TRELLIS: I’m great, thanks for having me.
PEREZ: Absolutely. So, Mitch has a medical cannabis dispensary, is that right?
TRELLIS: That’s correct, the largest in the state.
PEREZ: The largest in the state.
TRELLIS: Yes, ma’am.
PEREZ: So how did you come about that? Because it’s in Maryland, and I’ve heard that it’s pretty hard to start one of these.
TRELLIS: It is very, very difficult. We actually won a merit-based application process against, I believe there were 900 applications for 103 dispensaries in the state of Maryland. And we came in second in Howard County District 13. They gave out two in District 13, and we received one of those two. There are 70 (dispensaries) open in the state of Maryland today. There’s probably another 32 or 33 to go. Maryland is now the most dense state for dispensaries in the country on a square mile basis. There are 70 dispensaries in the smallest space in America essentially. So it’s gotten very heated and very hectic. The state did about 97 and a half million dollars in medical cannabis sales in year one.
PEREZ: Wowzers. So how long have you been open?
TRELLIS: We have been open since December 21st.
PEREZ: You just opened.
TRELLIS: No, a year ago. It was our one year anniversary December 21st.
PEREZ: Gotcha. Okay. So what sparked this? What made you get into medical cannabis distribution?
TRELLIS: I’ve been passionate about cannabis myself since I was 21, 22 years old. I’ve been self-medicating with cannabis. And it’s funny, if you self medicated 20 years ago they called it getting high.
TRELLIS: You know what I mean? But today, it really is self-medicating. So I’ve always been passionate about cannabis, never a big drinker, never really into pharmaceuticals or narcotics or any of those things. Never was a big believer in Western medicine. I always found that cannabis tended to relieve a lot of symptoms that I might happen to have. As the world started to transition into this kind of realization that, perhaps it wasn’t the “devil’s lettuce” as they always led us to believe, I kind of as an entrepreneur — I’ve always been an entrepreneur — I’ve always been interested in starting businesses, I kind of kept my eye on it. And in 2014, I was living in New Jersey, and my best friend and today my business partner, he was working in Baltimore running the largest alternative heroin treatment center in Baltimore City. He treats thousands of heroin addicts a year with acupuncture…
PEREZ: Get out of here. Effectively?
TRELLIS: Effectively. Maryland wrote a very, very progressive law in 2014 that basically created one of the most liberal medical cannabis programs in the country. And immediately I was into it, and I called my partner and I said, we are gonna apply for a cannabis license. And he said “it’s a gateway drug” and hung up on me. But we started to talk, and he very quickly realized that it isn’t a gateway drug, that there are actually some very powerful statistics. And the one that got him was in medical cannabis states fatal opioid overdoses are 25% to 30% lower. In the state of Maryland, I believe, there were 700, which means medical cannabis is saving 150 to 170 lives. Literally. Once he realized that, he started to look at it in a different way. And his background is in health care, his background is in wellness. His family were the first people in America to teach acupuncture in 1974 in Columbia, Maryland. So his family is kind of wellness or alternative medicine royalty. So once he realized, came to the conclusion that maybe what I was saying had some merit. He went back to his father, and they started to dig in a little bit and they were pretty blown away. So we started to put together a team and it took a lot of work. The state wrote a great law but it took a long time to implement. So we started in 2014 and our application actually went in in 2016. It took two years. Then there was a six month waiting process. We applied for a grow, a processor, and a dispensary.
PEREZ: So does that mean you grow your own stuff here?
TRELLIS: So we were trying to grow our own cannabis in Maryland. Are you familiar with the processing?
TRELLIS: So you know all the vape pens that you see everybody with? So that’s cannabis broken down into a chemical, a very high intensity product from the cannabis oil. That all occurs in a process. So there’s actually three legs of the business. There’s the grow, where you actually grow the cannabis, there’s the processor where you make it into different products, and there’s a dispensary where you sell the different products.
PEREZ: Gotcha. That makes sense.
TRELLIS: So the application process was for each vertical. We applied for all three verticals. We didn’t win the grow, we didn’t win the processor, which was, as you can imagine, very disappointing. We invested hundreds of thousands of dollars, a few years of our lives, it was very emotionally…
TRELLIS: Yes, without a doubt. Now they didn’t announce at that time the winners of the store permits…
PEREZ: You just thought your dreams had been dashed.
TRELLIS: Exactly. And a couple months later we found out we had won a dispensary in our hometown of Columbia, Maryland. It was really exciting. What’s interesting is a lot of people apply for dispensaries all over the state. We looked at it and we said, “This is where we’re from. This is our community. And we’re gonna apply in one place.” And we applied in one region out of 52 in the state, and we won in our region.
PEREZ: That’s a blessing.
TRELLIS: It is a blessing. And we own a store within 5 miles of our homes, within 5 miles of where all of our children go to school. This is our community. And in retrospect, people ask us why we’re so successful. And there’s a lot of reasons, but I do think one of them is that it is our community. Remedy has become a community, but it’s a community within a community where we were already comfortable, already familiar, and we have a level of respect. And I don’t know if you know about Columbia, but Columbia is a very unique place; it has a very unique history. And it’s grown into this incredible place, right, but at the end of the day it’s like you said, it’s just home. It’s nice to see people that we grew up with, and it’s nice to see children that we grew up with and their parents. We treat about 1700 patients a week. And most of them come from the Howard County area. We do have a decent number of people who tend to drive past other dispensaries to get to Remedy. We have a really interesting experience. All of our patient advisors are ASA certified. It’s called Americans for Safe Access. It’s basically patient advisor training, for lack of a better word. And one of the things about cannabis, is that,because it’s not federally legal, there’s no real standardization in the treatment. And there’s no real FDA-approved tests and so on. Therefore, we can’t really say that “this works this way.” What we can say is that “we find that this tends to work this way for certain patients.” So the ASA training, what it really does is instill a real knowledge in our patient advisors. And then our patient advisors are all patients themselves. They’re all very passionate about cannabis. So one of the things that we’ve established is this really comfortable community where our patient advisors are able to really make people comfortable and take people along the path in their journey. What cannabis tends to be is for people who have not found what it is they’re looking for in standard medicine. So it really does become a journey. It’s not people… You know, there are people in there getting high. But like I said earlier, when you’re getting high you’re probably self-medicating for something, and for every one person like that there’s three or four people who are like, I don’t want opioids anymore. I don’t want to do whatever it is I’m doing anymore.
PEREZ: So walk me through the process, I don’t have a medical card right. But I’m driving in Columbia and I see your store and I pull in your parking lot, and I’m like “Yes!” And I walk in the door, what happens?
TRELLIS: So you’re walking through Columbia and you see our store. Unfortunately, they do not have same-day patient registration. The process takes about a week or two. How it would work is we have a process, we have patient concierges, we would sign you up in the state system on the computer, which you can also do yourself. Pretty easy. We take a picture of you. One of the things that we’ve found with the state is that the picture tends to get rejected. So there’s a specific way to take the picture. We send it into the state. And anywhere from ten days to three or four weeks later, they come back to you with a patient number. At that point, you go to a doctor, a certified doctor. I believe there’s 3 or 4 hundred across the state of Maryland already. They write you a recommendation for cannabis. But one of the reasons that Maryland’s program is so liberal is that anyone can qualify for medical cannabis for anything a doctor feels it would be beneficial for.
PEREZ: That’s a really big umbrella.
TRELLIS: And what we actually find a lot is anxiety. And that is not one of the qualifying illnesses, but people do tend to use cannabis for it, to treat it, and it does tend to work. So some of the illnesses that we see a lot of are anxiety and depression.
PEREZ: So I come in, they make me wait a week and ten days to get my patient number, I go see my doctor, they give me a referral slip, or?
TRELLIS: They write you a recommendation, it’s like a prescription, but they’re not allowed to write a prescription because it’s federally illegal. And you bring it back to Remedy and you’re ready to be a patient.
PEREZ: When I do that, do I have to go back and see my doctor every month, or…?
TRELLIS: Once every year.
PEREZ: Oh, that’s not bad. So I get this recommendation, you inform me that I’m good to go, and I come back in. Tell me what I can find at Remedy. Is it snacks, or is it barrels of weed, or is it vape pens?
TRELLIS: All of that. In the state of Maryland, they have all products, they have vape pens, they have cartridges. They do not have edibles in the state of Maryland. They’re in the process of figuring out the rules around edibles. There are some FDA concerns about foods and so on. We do have some orally ingested products.
PEREZ: What’s that considered, like a lollipop or a lozenge?
TRELLIS: Exactly. Instead of gummies, we have troches, instead of sodas we have elixirs. At the end of the day, they’re orally ingested, and they have the exact same effect as edibles. Our orally ingested products tend to be on the less strong side.
TRELLIS: Yes, because the one risk in all medical cannabis is around edibles. The dosing in edibles is much harder to deal with.
PEREZ: And regulate.
TRELLIS: And regulate. And the most adverse effects tend to be from edibles. And there’s a scientific reason why, I could go into it, but to make a long story short it just tends to make people… if people are going to have an adverse reaction, it comes from edibles.
PEREZ: I think that in general with edibles, people tend to overindulge. Ordinarily I would eat a whole cookie. I would eat a whole brownie.
TRELLIS: Maybe two.
PEREZ: But with edibles it’s like, you just need a little slab.
TRELLIS: And it takes 30-40 minutes, or for some people it might take an hour, for some people it might take two hours. So people go back and say, “let me have some more cookie”.
PEREZ: Or eat the whole thing. And then you have the worst experience in your life, and you never want to do it again.
TRELLIS: Right. I personally am not a big edible fan. And I just don’t like the way it makes me feel, but also I’ve had that experience myself a couple times. And if I were to smoke too much, the worst that happens is you fall asleep. But like you said, with an edible, there’s the opportunity for a slightly adverse reaction. But you’re not dying, you’re not blacking out and waking up in a place that you don’t know where you are. So what the processors have tended to do with these orally ingested medicines is to err on the side of caution, which, I as the provider, appreciate, and make smaller doses of orally ingested medicine.
PEREZ: So how can people get information about Remedy Columbia?
TRELLIS: So I was just going to finish really quick on the doctor’s appointment. The doctor’s appointment tends to cost between 150 and 225 dollars in the state. And one of the barriers to entry that we’ve found for patients is that’s a large amount of money for cannabis users. That’s half of an ounce. So one of the programs that we’ve created is a reimbursement program.
PEREZ: Which is what?
TRELLIS: Basically, if you bring your doctor’s referral with a receipt, we will give you back in product the cost of your doctor’s appointment up to 200 dollars over 5 visits. So what that equals is a 40 dollar credit, in product, every time you visit, up to 5 visits. And in our store, 40 dollars gets you an eighth of cannabis, high grade cannabis.
PEREZ: Now, is there a limit? I have all my paperwork, I’m ready, I’m in your system, can I just come in and buy out your store or is it regulated?
TRELLIS: Every patient in the state of Maryland has a 4 ounce per month limit. It’s a lot. As someone who medicates every day, I mean, I don’t use my 4 ounces. So it’s a lot. The people who do tend to use it are people making edibles at home. They break it down and make their own brownies. Those are the only people that I’ve come across who tend to do that. It’s a lot, 4 ounces of weed.
PEREZ: That’s a lot, I’m not mad about it though.
TRELLIS: The average person in the top 10% of usage smokes 1.6 grams per day. Which really works out to be, what, 45, 50 grams a month? And our limit is 120. So it’s fair, it’s more than fair. And for some people, your tolerance goes up as you medicate more.
PEREZ: Now how do you measure if it’s a vape pen, versus I want a little bud, I want a little vape pen, I want a little whatever?
TRELLIS: So they count, you can either have 120 grams of flower or 30 grams of THC. And what they measure is the percentage of THC in the gram that you bought of concentrate. The concentrates are very intense, they’re up to 90% of THC. So that would mean you could basically have a gram of concentrate that’s 90% THC. So they count even for THC or the flower.
TRELLIS: Yes, it’s a very fair program. I’ve never found myself lacking in medicine. And you know, they’re trying to make it so that people can medicate in a safe fashion. And at the same time, control diversion and make it so that people outside of the program do not have access to the medicine, because that makes sense, it’s a totally reasonable concern.
PEREZ: So if I go to a doctor and I get this card, but my job randomly drug tests me, that’s gotta be something you guys encounter, right? So the medical marijuana thing doesn’t give me a pass with my job?
TRELLIS: Exactly, right, not yet. So this is a conversation that’s being had in some more forward, more liberal states. About whether that recommendation or referral is protective, in the same way that if a doctor referred you to opioids,your employer wouldn’t theoretically fire you for taking those opioids? Right now, there are no protections.
PEREZ: So you’re on your own.
TRELLIS: You’re on your own. That being said, as corporate America becomes more comfortable with cannabis…
PEREZ: A lot of places are.
TRELLIS: There are a lot more, they don’t like to tell you, but they really are a lot more comfortable. Look, a lot of these places wouldn’t be able to hire anybody. And it’s also, look, society is going through this whole kind of…
TRELLIS: Exactly, where we’re like maybe it isn’t as bad as everybody says it is. It’s even happening in corporations. Look, it really is a big medicine. I used to work on Wall Street, and the stereotype on Wall Street is cocaine. But in reality, what I often found is that a lot of people on Wall Street use cannabis. And the reason was it was just a relaxant, and the intensity level of millions of dollars and trading and all these things, these people tended to just needed to take it down a notch after the days.
PEREZ: Fantastic. Well I’ll have to visit Remedy Columbia once I get all my stuff in order. So tell everyone how they can get more information.
TRELLIS: You can call us at Remedy Columbia, 410-935-7729. You can visit the website at www.remedycolumbia.com. Or you can come down to Columbia and check us out, 6656 Daven Road, Suite E. We’re on social media, Remedy Columbia. We’ve actually gotten kicked off of Instagram six times. They’re very, very tough. So you might not find us on Instagram or on Facebook, it’s very hard to find us on Instagram, but we’re on Facebook, we’re on Twitter, we’re on all of those things. And again, come on down, look us up on the internet, and give us a call. We really want to help people become patients and we’re here to help people get started on their journey and transition along the way. It’s a pretty amazing journey.
PEREZ: I’m here for all of that. Thank you so much for joining us.
TRELLIS: Thank you for having us.
PEREZ: Thanks for being informative. And thank you guys for joining us for another edition of What’s Poppin the Podcast, only on 93.9 WKYS.