Cecil County Medical Marijuana Farm Proposed, Hodge’s Site Considered; State Oversees Facility

March 4, 2015


A high-tech medical marijuana farm could be located in Cecil County under a proposal from a Howard County businessman presented to county officials, including local health and law enforcement leaders. A possible site is owned by Cecil County Council President Robert Hodge (R-5).

Carey Millstein, who has operated a pecan nut exporting business, presented his proposal before the County Council, County Executive Tari Moore, Sheriff Scott Adams, and county health officer Stephanie Garrity on Tuesday. The Elkton meeting was closed to the public, under cited provisions of the state open meetings law governing a proposal for a business to locate in the state. However, Millstein spoke in a loud voice that was audible outside the closed doors.

In a subsequent interview with Cecil Times, Millstein spoke at length about his plans and thoughts about the need for medical marijuana, his passion on the issue stemming from family members’ medical issues, the state regulatory environment, and his reasons for looking at Cecil County, among other locations, for his proposed operations.

Millstein’s plans are still very preliminary—as is the state framework for regulating and overseeing such operations—and he has not selected any particular location in the county for what he expects would be an indoor, high-tech growing facility. He appeared before county officials to ask them to support his project as part of his application process to obtain state licenses for his operation.

“There was absolutely no decision” at the Tuesday meeting on Millstein’s request, County Council President Robert Hodge (R-5) told Cecil Times Tuesday evening. “No one said they would or wouldn’t” support the proposal. “There were a lot of questions.”

Subsequently, Millstein told Cecil Times that he is working with a real estate agent in Howard County to scout out possible locations, and one site was in Cecil County. Millstein said that when he went to view the property, Hodge showed up for the tour as an owner. At the time, Millstein said, he didn’t know “he (Hodge) was affiliated” with the county. But Millstein said he is looking at other sites and has not settled on any particular location.

After Cecil Times told Hodge of Millstein’s comments, the Council president admitted on Wednesday that he did indeed attend a showing of a property he owns for possible location of the medical marijuana facility. But Hodge insisted there was no impropriety, as he recused himself from the discussion at the closed session he attended and turned over the presiding officer’s duties to the vice-president of the council, Dr. Alan McCarthy (R-1).

“Let me make it perfectly clear,” Hodge told Cecil Times. “No commitments were made” at the Council closed-door session. “It was a presentation only.”

Meanwhile, last year the General Assembly passed legislation de-criminalizing—but not fully legalizing– possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal, recreational use and overhauled earlier legislation allowing marijuana use for patients diagnosed with certain serious medical conditions. The previous medical marijuana law was so restrictive—limiting dispensing and/or production to higher education research institutions—that nothing ever came of the program and seriously or terminally ill patients in the state still had no legal means to obtain marijuana to alleviate pain, chemotherapy side-effects or other conditions.

The state created a Medical Marijuana Commission, which is only now gearing up to develop regulations, application forms and procedures for the new medical marijuana program. Detailed, complex regulations were issued in draft form 1/23/15 and put out for a public comment period that ended 2/23/15. The Commission is now reviewing the comments before issuing final regulations at some point in the future.

With the changes in state law, the state medical community is also re-evaluating the medicinal benefits of marijuana—with the state medical society hosting an all-day conference in Baltimore later this month on the medical as well as legal issues involving marijuana.

For entrepreneurs, the launch of a medical marijuana production and dispensing system in Maryland poses an opportunity to develop a new industry, and one which could expand greatly in the future if Maryland follows the lead of an increasing number of states that have legalized recreational use of marijuana. Since the federal government still considers marijuana an illegal drug, shipment across state lines is banned so in-state production and distribution would be vital.

Millstein’s plans call for hiring up to 100 workers, ranging from $15-an-hour production workers to $60 an hour senior security experts with law enforcement training and experience. He anticipates his facility would involve an investment of about $16 million.

On top of those costs, proposed state regulations impose hefty licensing fees: $250,000 for a biennial license for growing-only operations and $330,000 for biennial licensing for a growing plus dispensing operation.

Millstein’s proposal would locate growing operations locally but not a dispensary, which would be located elsewhere. The state draft regulations allow a growing facility to also operate a “satellite” dispensing facility, where patients could obtain medical marijuana prescribed by a physician. The regulations also set strict procedures for doctors to obtain state authorization to prescribe marijuana for certain medical conditions. In addition, a “dispensary” would have to have a “medical director” on site—a physician, a nurse practitioner or a pharmacist.

The draft state regulations also set strict security rules for facilities growing medical marijuana, both open-field growing and hydroponic, indoor operations. For an indoor facility, a minimum of 8-foot-high fencing is required, including multiple layers of barbed wire on top. Security cameras and recordings are also required on the exterior, and interior, of a facility.

“The security considerations are enormous,” Millstein said. “The state is going to score me” on a detailed security plan, as part of a 16-point “rating” system to evaluate applications for licensing. Initially, the regulations propose pre-approval of only 15 grower licenses statewide, with the potential for more in the future if there is adequate demand for medical marijuana.

At the top of that scorecard is location of a growing facility “in an agricultural zone.” Unclear in the state rules is whether the individual property would have to have Ag zoning or whether Cecil County, with a largely rural and agricultural profile, would meet that test even if an indoor growing facility was located on an industrial-zoned property in the county. However, other rating points require that a facility comply with all local zoning rules.

Millstein told Cecil Times that because of the ambiguity of the state regulations, he would prefer a site that has a clear agricultural zoning designation.

The proposed ranking scorecard also includes standards of financial viability and criminal background checks for operators and employees, as well as environmental issues such as handling of waste materials generated in the growing process.

Millstein is passionate about the need for providing medical marijuana for critically ill patients, citing members of his family who could have been helped but could not obtain such medication legally in the past. He also says he wants to support agriculture in Maryland, by fostering new high-tech methods of growing crops and developing ag markets.

He said he is aware of, and impressed by, the high-tech mushroom growing facility in Warwick, in southern Cecil County, that has become a minimally visible, viable crop production operation that employs many people in a rural farm-oriented community.

Millstein told Cecil Times that he has assembled an advisory board of top medical and agricultural experts to help him develop his project, wherever he ultimately locates it. But foremost in his priorities, he said, is finding a way to help seriously ill patients.

“They need a pathway out of pain, and not be pushed underground,” he said.

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15 Responses to Cecil County Medical Marijuana Farm Proposed, Hodge’s Site Considered; State Oversees Facility

  1. Ronald Demmler on March 4, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    And this is why the drug problem will never be eradicated in this county or elsewhere. Too much money to be made. Look at the start up cost and the continual fees imposed and you see that even with that, there are millions to be made in profit at the expense of the rest of society.

  2. VFP on March 5, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    Keep it in Elkton, preferably in Tari’s neighborhood. Also, makes perfect sense: a drug rehab center on Grove Neck rd, right next door to a whopping marijuana farm. Roll one. Smoke one, Eat one, then go next door for your official drug rehab. I can just imagine all the riff raff that will attract.

    So I guess this is what constitutes the best leadership money can buy?

    • Joe C on March 7, 2015 at 7:31 am

      This reminds me of the political ad that came out two election cycles ago, it stated, “What are they smoking”? Referring to Hodge and Moore. Now we know what they mean by bringing “high tech” business to Cecil County. Also this explains the big push for expanded water and sewer service which would be needed for this type of business. You would think that with this type of profits they could pay the sewer project bonds, but no they want current rate payers to pay for their sewer projects. I wonder if Alpacas like weed? I have heard that chickens like it! Cecil County drug capital of Maryland!

      • Harold McCanick on March 7, 2015 at 6:35 pm

        I will preface this statement with my objection to legalized marijuana but to elude to councilman Hodge as having financial gain from aforementioned legislation and foreseeing this as a means to obtain it are ludicrous.To suggest such a conspiracy theory reminds me of the former councilwoman voters rejected nearly unanimously is the last election cycle.

      • RDF 001 on March 8, 2015 at 7:38 am

        Your post reads like recycled attacks from Smipkin Island. Pipkin, Smigiel, and Broomell have moved on. You should join them.

        • Harold McCanick on March 9, 2015 at 7:18 pm

          What meanum Smipkin Island?

        • Joe C on March 13, 2015 at 5:45 am

          “You can’t stand truth”!!

          • RDF 001 on March 13, 2015 at 2:02 pm

            Truth? From Smipkins? Do you have a specific allegation?

  3. Almost Heaven on March 5, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    ‘Austin, Texas – In a bold piece of legislation, Rep. David Simpson (R) filed a bill that would delete any mention of marijuana from state law. It would completely deregulate it and treat it as any common crop.
    In a press release, Simpson said he supported regulating marijuana like the state regulates “tomatoes, jalapeños or coffee.”

    I think Senator Simpson’s approach to Marijuana legislation makes perfect sense, Mr. Hodge’s approach is just stupid.
    God help us to do better.

    • RDF 001 on March 6, 2015 at 7:16 am

      Almost Heaven: What is “Mr. Hodges approach”? He apparently did not participate in the discussion.

      • Almost Heaven on March 8, 2015 at 8:16 pm


  4. Joe C on March 7, 2015 at 9:40 am

    I guess when Tari said there are business opportunities that she could gain from having ties with the Liberal Ms. Watson(yes, the former county executive candidate from Howard County that Tari endorsed over Allan Kittleman-R) from Howard county, now we know what they were. Turning Cecil County into a drug capital. Not surprising coming someone who grew up in California! Time for her to go back.

  5. No Dope on March 7, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    So Cecil County can be the pot capital of the state, on top of our reputation as the heroin overdose center. Yeah that helps us a whole lot. And if somebody else owned the property this man looked at would they get all the county officials to sit down and listen to him now? Looks like to me that hodge will do anything to make money.

  6. Joe C on March 13, 2015 at 5:48 am

    Hey, maybe we can have a sequel to “Up in Smoke” shot right here in Cecil county. I am sure Tari would have a “seat at the table” on that deal too.

  7. patti Ayers on May 11, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    so those that NEED medical marijuana on a daily basis just so they can play with their grandchildren or walk outside to hang laundry must suffer because IGNORANT PEOPLE think that marijuana is the devil’s weed ? SHAME ON YOU ALL

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