By Maria Asimopoulos
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Baltimore’s first hemp dispensary is already starting to get a regular clientele after opening its doors on April 20, according to the shop’s owner.
Francesco Monico, a 32-year-old Baltimore resident and owner of Charmed Hemp, started the brand and website for the business in 2018 before working on opening a store.
Monico, who said he has “always been fascinated with cannabis,” got the idea to open a dispensary for hemp after exploring the option of vending medical marijuana.
“I did some traveling and just saw what was going on in the world to see where I could fit in, mostly to California, Colorado,” he said. “You have to spend a lot of money on all the licensing [for marijuana], so that’s how I landed on hemp.”
Hemp only has 0.3 percent or less of the THC content of medical marijuana, so it doesn’t produce the high associated with the drug.
For that reason, businesses that only dispense hemp do not need to be licensed by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, and neither do the people who buy it. Customers only have to prove they’re 18 or older to make a purchase.
The first medical dispensaries in Baltimore opened in 2017, several years after medical marijuana became legal in the state. The delay was caused by the time it takes to cultivate cannabis, said the Cannabis Commission’s director of communications, Jennifer White.
“I was considering cannabis overall and hemp is cannabis, so the fact that hemp is a little easier to get into the industry with is where I saw an opening to get my foot in the door,” Monico said.
Hemp has been shown to have a variety of health benefits, such as relieving physical pain and mitigating anxiety, which Monico said are some of the most common reasons why people have come into Charmed Hemp.
“It’s natural, nontoxic,” Monico said. “The meds that big pharma provides aren’t usually the best and have side effects that aren’t good for us. Hemp doesn’t really have that, so that’s a big benefit.”
Hemp can also be used in place of other materials for plastics, papers and fuel, he said.
Charmed Hemp, located at 1802 Eastern Avenue, has a variety of products available in store and online, including smokable flowers, vaporizers, concentrates, tinctures, topical creams and hemp clothing.
The cushioned seats, vibrant mural on the walls, and distinct scent in the store make for an inviting atmosphere for customers.
“I wanted it to be an aesthetically pleasing environment, something that makes people feel comfortable and safe,” Monico said.
Some people leaving reviews on social media had positive things to say about it.
“The shop was very welcoming and unique,” recent customer Mic Koy said. “It reminded me of my experience going to dispensaries in California but much less intimidating. Francesco was very inviting, had some specials, and had a great selection of hemp.”
Monico currently has no employees and operates each aspect of the business on his own due to Charmed Hemp’s recent startup, but he hopes to hire people from the area when the business can afford it. He also said that he orders his hemp from Colorado and Oregon, but once harvesting begins in Maryland, he plans to start ordering from within the state so that he can be a fully local brand.
“I’ve been well received from the neighborhood. Everyone seems to be really enjoying the shop and what I’ve brought to the community,” Monico said. “I’m happy to see the results and excited for the future and what I can help provide for others.”