There are so many retail dispensaries opening up all over Maryland these days that it's easy to overlook some of the hidden gems out there, we were able to check out one of the nicest spots we have visited thus far @ Storehouse MD... they are "Designed For Well Being" that DNA is built into the physical retail space itself, visit them on Falls Rd in Baltimore and you'll see what we're talking about.
Christopher Burke is the retail manager @ Storehouse and he was able to chat with us for a bit... Get to know Chris and glean some insight into the new retail cannabis dispensary culture that is developing and evolving in Maryland, we were glad to spend some time in the store on the front lines.
Tell us a little about your background, where are you from, how did you come to Maryland?
I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago, attended The Ohio State University and graduated from the engineering program in early 2008, then moved to Denver in early 2012 after returning home to Chicago for a few years. I jumped into the cannabis industry in late 2013 and helped to launch one of the first recreational stores in the country in early 2014, then continued helping the company scale up through 2017.
I began working with a recruiter later in the year to find a new opportunity when I was introduced to the founders of Storehouse and we hit it off immediately, both from a personality standpoint as well as ethics and vision. Although I had opportunities elsewhere, including to stay put in Denver, I was attracted to the opportunity to pioneer a new market where there was still a lot of work to be done de-stigmatizing cannabis and making sure that this industry and this plant are represented correctly.
I myself am a Mid-Westerner, I spent several years in Akron and Cleveland OH involved in the nascent Tech and Music industries in the late 90s and early 2000s, I love it there and consider Ohio my second Home.
What is it like being a dispensary manager in Maryland?
So far Maryland has been a fun journey that has come with some unique challenges. Overall the state of Maryland rolled out a very high level program that was able to avoid some of the developmental headaches that are typical in a new market, having learned from other mature markets and implemented much of the good ideas while avoiding some of the pitfalls.
I have heard this same sentiment from many people involved in the industry. Tell us a little about your company Storehouse, background and most importantly Storehouse's vision and mission statement for patients.
At Storehouse, our vision was to produce a patient experience that exceeds expectations while helping advance the discussion on cannabis and de-stigmatizing it. First we focused on creating a beautiful physical space, working with some of the best architects and designers in the city, to create a feel that was authentic to the old industrial history of the area but warm and welcoming at the same time. Next, we staffed with a group of professional, passionate people who felt obligated to get involved with this industry and had a genuine connection to cannabis.
Tell our readers how you become a patient and your path to medical cannabis.
To become a patient in the state of Maryland is simple, and a person seeking medical cannabis as a treatment option can register with the state and get started in a few quick minutes. Once you have determined to seek cannabis as a treatment option, all a person needs to do is jump online and register with the state. Within a few weeks the state will reply, and assuming you have been approved they will assign a 16-digit patient number, which you can then make an appointment at one of the registered doctors.
It is recommended that patients bring any supporting documentation they have for their qualifying condition. Once the doctor approves cannabis as a treatment, the patient will be officially registered with the state and can head to the dispensary. Once at the dispensary, all the patients need is a valid government-issued photo ID and their patient number and the dispensary can look them up and verify all the necessary information.
Thanks for your time Chris, I think we are getting a good picture of what Chris Burke is all about, care to fill in details about yourself... Likes, Un-likes, Music, Style, have fun with this question.
I am an active person who likes to keep busy in all aspects of mind, body, and spirit. I have been a cannabis user for my entire adult life and psychedelic medicines have played a profoundly important role in my journey so far, which has largely contributed to my deep personal connection to this industry and the cannabis plant.
I am an endurance athlete, having raced Ironman triathlon and many marathons over the years including the Boston and Chicago marathons, as well as a certified personal trainer and Pavel-trained Russian Kettlebell Trainer. Having come from Colorado for the last 6 years, I also enjoy all the usual Coloradan activities like skiing, hiking, camping, etc.
Some of my favorite music would have to be Atmosphere, Blind Melon and 90's hip hop, and if I only got to listen to one album the rest of my life it would have to be Atmosphere's "Seven's Travels".
There you have it... Straight from the front lines in Maryland Cannabis Retail Operations, click on the IG button to learn more about Chris and check out the galleries below to learn more about Storehouse MD
We visited the team @ Storehouse in the trendy neighborhood of Mt Washington and were impressed with their community driven philosophy that combines well thought out + functional design elements within the physical built up dispensary environment itself, friendly open passionate and approachable associates with patient first pricing and selection.
The Mt Washington location is @ 5730 Falls Rd and they have ample parking in their own lot around the side.
Storehouse MD - Designed For Well Being
Cultas Concentrates are wildly popular at the moment @ dispensaries all over Maryland and even @ MC we are big fans, just see the columnists reviews for proof of this. Their gPen and sauces using the whole plant extraction method being particularly fine to this particular connoisseur.
Did you know the head of the extraction lab is a transplant from Colorado and she's also pioneering in her own right here in Maryland being the first woman to head up a major extract lab in the Mid-Atlantic... kudos to Michelle and Culta.
Michelle took a few moments from her busy day to chat over the web with MC, take a few moments of your own and get to know Michelle, she has a big hand in making the concentrates you all love.
MC - What is your background?
I studied Microbiology and Chemistry in college, graduated in 2007. While I was in school and after I graduated I was in the service industry working as a waitress and bartender. I have been in the legal cannabis industry since 2013.
MC - How did you get involved with Cannabis and specifically - Extracts?
I moved to Colorado in 2012 and became a medical patient, I found that I was able to treat a variety of conditions I had with cannabis and it allowed me to ween off my prescription medications. I was able to track what was helping me because of the potency labels on the products I was buying from the dispensary, eventually the dispensary I shopped at hired me as a budtender. A little while after working in the dispensary the company started construction on their processing lab, I thought this was a prefect chance to transition and apply my background in biological sciences to this industry. My first position in the laboratory was as a lab technician, I learned from some of the best hashmakers in Colorado during this time assisting them in daily activities. Eventually, an extraction position opened up and I too became an extractor running the machines and making the oils.
MC - What's it like to work @ Culta and the facility out in Cambridge, and to lead the extract lab?
It's an incredible experience to be working at Culta, I moved to Cambridge from Colorado in April and it's been full steam ahead ever since! It is nice to be in Cambridge, a change from the city, quite and quaint . We're a tight nit group that feels more like a family, working with such talented, passionate individuals is such a pleasure. Leading this lab is a chance of a lifetime and something that I am passionate about. Our laboratory is state of the art and we are pioneering and advocating for cannabis on a daily basis, these are exciting times!
MC - Favorite strains and concentrates?
Some of my favorite strains are Chem Dawg, Skunk #1, Jack Herer, I-95, Harley Quinn, Rosaberry, Dosido and Gorilla Glue. My favorite concentrates are difficult to pin down because I like so many but I am drawn to the heavy hitting ones, I like the THCa diamonds for their high potency. Live Resin is another favorite, with high levels of terpenes I get the best of both worlds thanks to the synergistic effects of cannabiniods and terpenes. Indica or indica leaning hybrids along with CBD saps are my daily medicines. I am looking forward to expanding into solvent-less resin in the future!
MC - Tell us a little more about you, inspirations and likes?
I love the outdoors and nature, get me outside around trees and I am one happy lady! I practice yoga daily and like to relax with music and a book. I get most of my inspiration from researching or listening to various cannabis podcasts, I inspire to break stereotypes associated with cannabis and to produce quality medicine for the Maryland community. I love this industry because there is always something new to learn, whether it is a new tech, working with a new strain or getting a new piece of equipment.
MC - Thanks so much Michelle, our readers will have a better sense of the unique and talented people behind the great products they are so passionate about, that's our job here.
One big part of the Maryland Cannabis Community are the Doctors and green health organizations that are making it easier for people to get legal and come in from the shadows.
One group in particular is making a name for themselves by providing superior care and easy accessibility and they also helped me to get legal, so without further adieu here is Carolyne Monroe from Green Health Docs;
MC - So how did it all begin for you personally?
My husband left the Marine Corp. in 2016. He had suffered a sciatic injury during his service (Nerve damage) Once diagnosed, like most veterans, he began looking for alternative medicine My Husband had lost friends and family to opiates so he pursued medical cannabis. Someone had posted a picture on facebook and I immediately sent him the link and he went to Green Health Docs that day. At this time Green Health Docs had just been open for a few weeks. My husband went in with his medical documentation and exam fee, and got legal. He was also hired on as the Veteran Outreach Specialist for Green Health Docs that day. I was brought on a year afterwards coming from a holistic health and wellness background and it was right up my alley. The rest is history.
MC - I have heard aspects of this story so many times, and it usually ends up badly, so I am very glad your husband got the attention he needed, how did your company get started?
Green Health Doc’s is owned and created by doctors who wanted to combat the opiate epidemic. It’s created a safe haven for patients who have been shunned away for their interest in cannabis. The Clinics are run like any other clinic. You come in you’re greeted by a receptionist, fill out an intake form, wait in the waiting area, and then are taken to the doctors room.
The physician performs an evaluation and looks over your medical documentation to verify that you have a qualifying condition. Once the doctor makes the decision to legalize you we either take you to another office to register you as a patient with the state or if you’ve completed that process the doctor takes the 16 digit MMCC ID number, and from there you’re fully legal to head to the dispensary and begin purchasing product.
MC - I went through the process last year with you guys, thanks for that.
Can you tell us a bit more about your own background?
I began here as a call center representative and slowly moved up to a supervisor in public relations, customer care, and patient education. I have a background as a certified personal trainer and a medical assistant. I truly didn’t know where my career would lead me with health and wellness, but when I was given this opportunity here. I leaped at the chance. This is beyond a job it’s the beginning of a movement. It is what my generation was put here for.
MC - What is your vision and passion when it comes to Maryland Cannabis?
Our goal as a company is a safe alternative medicine nationwide. To heal with a holistic approach over a chemical approach. To show society that cannabis is no longer a taboo, but a second chance at a beautiful life.
MC - We agree 100%, can you tell us about the medical science side of compassionate cannabis?
Cannabis is medicine, for decades people have been studying and treating their ailments and diagnoses with this medicine. It is proof that cannabis can not only prevent but maintain overall good health. Cannabis is currently being used as prevention and treatment for diseases such as: cachexia, anorexia, wasting syndrome, severe pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, any mental health ailment such as ADHD, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and any type of neuropathic or chronic pain.
MC - Thanks for that, any particularly moving patient story that you would like to share or highlight?
One of my first calls when I started working here was a 30 year old woman who had been in a car accident 10 years ago. After the accident she was wheelchair bound, placed in a pain management and overly medicated with strong narcotics. She told her her story of going from an average 20 year old to a life of pain pills, therapies, and surgeries. It truly showed me that if 10 years ago she had access to cannabis she would’ve never gone through a life of being over prescribed, in pain, and dealing with non functioning organs at 30. It showed me in that moment that this is what our society needs to truly heal from the inside out.
MC - That's very touching, thanks for sharing it with us and taking the time to inform and educate my readers!
Chase Lessman (pictured on the right) is the General Manager @ Culta in Federal Hill it's one of the hottest dispensary's in Maryland, I wanted to bend his ear a bit and we finally got the time to knock this interview out, please thank Chase for taking the time to inform and educate all of us.
MC - You were telling me about your experiences in Colorado and how you were there on the ground level working in the industry.
CL - I started working in the Cannabis industry back in 2009, right around when the initial dispensary boom in Colorado took place. At the time, I had been working full-time for the Denver Broncos for two years in various capacities, but mainly managing in high-volume, fast-paced environments at both Dove Valley headquarters and at (what was then) Invesco Field/Sports Authority Field.
Coincidentally, I was introduced to the owner of Doctors Orders through a very good friend of mine while we were both visiting a medical shop together, and noticed they were slammed with lines out of the door. I casually asked if they needed any part-time help, and was hired on the spot. Started off working there one day a week, and covered shifts that didn't interfere with my other job, working 6-7 days a week, for almost 2 years.
An opportunity arose where I was eventually offered the opportunity to manage the shop, and at that point, I made a full fledged shift into the cannabis industry in 2011. By 2014, we had expanded to a dual license in order to be able to offer recreational products, which found me operating two very different stores at once in various capacities.
Each store has a completely different type of visitor. A medical patient truly differs from a recreational customer from a purchasing perspective, which in turn results in different strategies needing to be developed to fit to each of them.
MC - That's really fascinating, you have a ton of insight that you bring to Maryland, thanks.
Inform us a bit about the business entrepreneurial aspects of working for Culta in your position, the perks, the challenges etc.
CL - I believe that it is truly important to have a solid passion in order to drive your success. When you pursue passion, you can never truly relate to the negative associations with the word "work." In turn, you'll need to have a great team who believe in the same purpose, and naturally a culture is developed that is truly the most important element in succeeding anywhere, but especially in the cannabis sector. Our CEO has done an exceptional job at hand-picking our upper management throughout the entire organization and it reflects in the attitude that our staff carries in their daily operations.
Our main duty at our dispensary is to be able to efficiently and comfortably disseminate any information that may help to understand the different recommendations that we give to our patients.
We feel there is a crucial responsibility attached to operating within the industry, and we are happy to help play our role in altering any stigma attached to it.
MC - Tell us about your family life, background etc.
CL - I was born in Littleton, Colorado. My mother is an MD from California, and my father is a successful multi-faceted business consultant from Nebraska. I lived in Colorado until I was 11, then moved to Munich, Germany for middle school and high school. I moved to Minnesota when I was 17 for college, and then moved back to Colorado in 2007.
MC - Tell us about how you came to be a patient and/or your path to cannabis, then the cannabis industry.
CL - I became a patient in 2008 due to ongoing pain associated with spondylolisthesis (say that 3 times fast!) in my L4-L5 verterbrae from playing sports in high school and college. To be brutally honest, my first experiences with cannabis were not all that great, I actually tried it for the first time when I was 14, and again when I was 16.
Having been in Germany during my middle school and high school years, it was interesting to note that hash was much more abundant (and therefore cheaper) than actual flower, so these first experiences were with spliffs (mixture of tobacco and hash). The combined effects of the nicotine from the tobacco and the intense concentration of THC from the hash was too much for my body to handle, and I became quite paranoid. I swore up and down to myself that when I came out of it, that I wasn't ever going to try it ever again.
Boy was I wrong. By the third time, I had grown out of the panic attacks from blasting my young body with all that THC, but I truthfully didn't even smoke flower for the first time until I was closer to 17. I moved back to the U.S. for college, and that's where a majority of my use began (stop me if you have heard this before lol).
By the time I moved back to Colorado after college, I became interested in researching and understanding the plant further, due luckily to the abundance of knowledgeable resources in Colorado.
MC - Thanks for taking the time out of your day to talk to us!
You can see Chase daily @ the store in Federal Hill
So in putting all the work that's required to have this online scene magazine for Maryland patients I have run into other people who are equally hard at work contributing to the new scene, since I love food... food and cannabis just go together so it seemed inevitable that I would meet someone like Will Parks.
Will is making a name for himself in the Baltimore Foodie Scene and now also in the Maryland Cannabis scene... Will took some time on his busy Sunday to talk with me about, food, spiciness, family, local roots and how he started on the path to become a patient in Maryland.
MC - How did it all begin for you Will?
WP - I enjoy spicy food, and well, food in general. Making hot sauce was a hobby when I was a teenager. I loved combining spicy and sweet, and the combination of fruit into my hot sauces as well. Upon graduating high school I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. At the time I was working part-time at Wegmans and beginning to think of the future. I eventually decided to enroll in culinary school and give cooking a shot, since I already had an interest in that field. I completed culinary school in 09' and started working in the prepared foods department at Wegmans.
I worked in various sections throughout the department including the wokery which is where I met my future wife. Wegmans was great, but i yearned for more of a culinary challenge. I moved on to work at the 'Milton Inn' located in Sparks, MD. This award winning fine dining establishment is where I really started to blossom and hone my craft. Everything we made was from scratch. Breaking down premier cuts of meat, dressings, soups, sauces, desserts, etc. I really enjoyed learning as much as I could.
After a few years though I ultimately made the decision to move on for a more family friendly schedule. Late nights and being absent for holidays was something I promised myself I wouldn't do when the time came for me to start a family. Family is everything to me.
MC - That dovetails perfectly to my next question about your family, behind every great man is an equally great woman.
WP - Saucier Willy would not exist without Gwen (my wife AKA Saucy Mama). She pushed, shoved, and kicked me in the ass about turning my hot sauce into a company. She saw something that I didn't, and her confidence in me and what we can do is what still drives me today. Her knowledge in the retail and culinary fields are really an asset. The company was built around my signature hot sauce "Devil's Blood" A spicy, sweet, tangy, all-around put this shit on everything type sauce. The 'Virgin Island Rub' was also a big part of the foundation of Saucier Willy, it's my wife's grandmother's recipe that we used as our wedding favors, we received so much good feedback from our guests we knew this had to be in the lineup.
'Saucier' is French, meaning 'a chef who prepares sauces'. 'Willy' is a fun nickname I've had throughout the years. This summer marks 3 years of being in business. I was running this company all while having a full time job, and being a Dad of 2. This past fall I recently started working part-time to give more of my time to my own company.
MC - So tell me about your obvious passion for FOOD!
WP - I love food. It brought me to the love of my life, and inevitably my company. Food brings people together. It's an expression of ones culture and who they are. Any event in your life, whether it be a celebration or a holiday etc., is usually always centered around food.
MC - That's great, I was reading recently about why humans are so enamored of Barbecue in particular and it's pretty deep stuff, when humans were primitive fire and meat were the two basic items in life if those two things came together it meant you had a crowd of people, some things change and some things never do, we still react that same way to fire and meat.
MC - More on your family, you have a great marriage with a great women, how about your kids?
WP - As I stated above, family is everything. I will sacrifice anything for my wife and 2 kids. They will always come first. From the moment I wake up I'm already looking forward to coming home and being with them. I just want to be the best husband and father that I can be.
MC - We all most definitely can relate to that, the modern world is so hectic, home and family become a kind of sanctuary.
How and why did you become a Maryland Medical Cannabis Patient... everyone has their own path?
WP - Becoming a medical cannabis patient was a no-brainer for me. I have extremely bad anxiety. Worrying every second about the smallest thing to the point where I can't sleep, giving myself migraines, having anxiety attacks, feeling like a ball of energy ready to explode... the list goes on. Cannabis was really the only thing that ever helped me manage these symptoms. It helps to keep me balanced and honestly saved my marriage. I'm a big advocate for the holistic approach and anything natural. I didn't want to be prescribed an anxiety medication and have to deal with all the adverse effects it comes with. I know what works for me and if it ain't broke don't fix it. I'm happy to be a part of the cannabis movement, and to move toward the future of breaking the stigma of being able to freely medicate with this extremely beneficial plant.
MC - We Agree 100%!
Tell me about your upcoming events and connections to the Maryland Cannabis Scene?
WP - Saucier Willy has some exciting ventures in this new cannabis movement as well! We are building recipes that will allow patients to use their medical cannabis with our products so they can make quick and easy edibles at home. We will be partnering with different dispensaries to host events where we can teach patients the basics on making edibles, how to use them in their everyday diet, and how to incorporate our own products as well.
*Saucier Willy Events Coming Up*
"Everything in life is better if it is a little spicier, tangier and saucier! Saucier Willy is dedicated to producing intricately made concoctions from fresh ingredients that invoke your taste-buds to long for more.
We use local farms to source our ingredients, support our community through this partnership and provide our customers with unique and fresh products. Small batch hot sauces, marmalades, preserves, seasonings and simple syrups"
So to inaugurate this new website Humans section your Connoisseur will do the first interview.
In the future I will have short on the spot interviews with the patients who's lives are being made better and how it's being made better by Maryland medical cannabis, I have had some heart wrenching messages from sick people inquiring about themselves, loved ones and even the family pet in end of life situations... the love and caring that comes through in the words give me motivation to be a better Connoisseur and human being in general.
For me my journey started with a simple tick bite somewhere in either western Maryland or West Virginia. Some time later my arm started hurting, at first it felt like I slept on it wrong but it would just not go away, it spreads randomly to other parts of my body, then for weeks i'll feel pretty good then it comes back even stronger. After a series of inconclusive tests my doctor described my condition as "lymey arthritis" and ever since then almost two years ago I have been dealing with daily chronic pain in a way I never imagined even just a few years ago.
So the new world opening up on CBD and terpene research is not only fascinating to me but really helps with my quality of life, thank you Maryland citizens for voting in large numbers to pass this law, then it took years for the politicians to implement and hope started to fade... but by December of last year 2017 I was able to visit my first dispensary (which was Remedy Columbia - thanks guys) and start to get the relief I needed for my abrupt condition.
- The Maryland Connoisseur 05/06/2018