County patients finding relief with medical marijuana

CECIL COUNTY — Tucked into the rolling farm fields of Warwick is likely Maryland’s largest medical marijuana grow facility, where some 100,000 plants bask in the sunshine under a state-of-the-art greenhouse.

This is SunMed Growers LLC, the vision of Jake Van Wingerden, a third generation greenhouse grower who started Tidal Creek Growers in Earleville in 2002.

But before anyone get the wrong idea, this grow house isn’t filled with tie-dye T-shirts and reggae music. It feels more like a laboratory inside Fort Knox, surrounded by razor wire, dozens of security cameras, armed security guards and keycard-controlled locks.

Yet all of the sophisticated technology being used at SunMed is just a few months old, as the Warwick operation received its state license in August and planted its first crop on Nov. 1.

SunMed is a family affair with Van Wingerden’s younger brother, Chris, moving from Colorado to help set up the facility and now serving as general manager. The grow facility currently employs 16 people, but Van Wingerden said he expected that number to grow to 20 as the workload increases.

Up to 1,000 plants are currently planted every two weeks at SunMed, with the grow period set at 16 weeks. Harvests of around 100 plants daily yield 25 to 50 pounds of medical marijuana. Finished products are sold to all licensed processors and dispensaries in the state, Van Wingerden said.

Anyone worried about diversion should rest assured that Maryland has instituted a robust control mechanism through its use of the Metrc tracking system, which is already in use in Colorado and California, among other states, Van Wingerden noted.

“It’s a bit like watching your package on Fedex tracking, where you see all the stops that it makes along the way,” he explained.

As soon as a plant is 8 inches

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