Local Musician Makes Plans to Grow Medical Marijuana in Maryland

A man who has been playing in D.C.-area bands since 1969 is planning to play in Maryland’s medical marijuana industry.

Johnny Castle, who is currently a member of the Nighthawks and the Thrillbillys, is also part of a group that’s been given preliminary approval to grow and sell medical marijuana. He calls it a good alternative to chemical drugs.

“If it helps with people that have seizures, why not?” he said. “Let’s get it going. If it’ll help anybody, I think it’s a good thing.”

Castle teamed up with Carey Millsetin and others to form Free State Wellness, one of the groups the state gave preliminary licenses. The group is converting a warehouse in Howard County into their grow facility.

“If the commission processes our final documents and gives us our license to go live in June, we could have product within three months,” Millstein said.

Maryland has taken longer to implement medical marijuana than most states that have legalized it. Former Gov. Martin O’Malley signed medical marijuana into law three years ago.

Recently, it hit a roadblock when minority companies that were not awarded licenses to grow or sell went to court. Some members of the Maryland state legislature hoped to correct that, but the General Assembly never brought it to a vote.

“Minority ownership, I think they should absolutely have, and I was dismayed to see the Maryland legislature snoozed on a chance to fix that,” Castle said.

Despite the pending court case, groups like Free State Wellness and the State Cannabis Commission are moving forward.

As of Friday morning, 250 physicians, 44 caregivers and 1,231 patients had registered with the state to participate in medical marijuana.

Amy Mellen is one of the patients eager to be able to use medical marijuana instead of the heavy prescriptions her doctor gives her now.

“They're working diligently to try and get this medicine available now, and all we can do is tell them we need it, we need it,” she said. “We are suffering, these patients are suffering.”

As for Castle, he knows he won’t always be on the road touring with a band and he’d like to help patients.

“I’m a people person, so I’d like to be at the front of the house and help people get their meds,” he said. “That would be cool.”

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