by Cathy Diekmann
Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce (SACC) members gathered for what might be their last Virtual Happy Hour by Zoom on June 11, 2020. The featured guest was Anthony Darby, CEO of Peninsula Alternative Health (PAH). During the event, guests heard Darby’s thoughtful perspective on developing PAH, learned the latest SACC advocacy news, played SACC Jeopardy, and got a sneak peek of the new Peninsula Wellness campus.
During the CEO Update, SACC President/CEO Bill Chambers offered guarded optimism regarding Governor Hogan’s recent decision to allow indoor restaurant dining at 50% capacity. “It’s a step, but a very small step,” Chambers maintained. “A lot of restaurants tell us that they need a higher percentage to open, so we’re still working hard with the Governor’s office to push that.”
On the Federal front, Chambers cited modifications to the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) noting that the SACC, in conjunction with the Small Business Development Center, will be offering additional webinars for guidance on the PPP regulatory changes.
Updates to CARES, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, are still being considered in the U.S. Senate. Chambers is hopeful the new legislation will include liability protection for businesses and organizations and a rebirth of funding for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. Noting the 7% fall in the Dow Jones on June 11, 2020, Chambers is certain that recovery from COVID-19 will not be a straight-line progression. “This will be a marathon recovery, so it’s important that businesses that couldn’t get EIDL money have a chance to do that now.”
Guests tested their trivia knowledge during SACC Jeopardy which included categories such as “Funkytown” (questions related to 1970, the SACC 50th anniversary),”In the News” and “No Free Samples” (questions related to medical cannabis). Not surprisingly, Darby was 5 for 5 in that latter category and shared his wealth of insight about the history and regulation of the industry.
During the Q and A with Darby, guests learned how an unexpected layoff propelled Darby to pursue a career change. “I had some time to think about what mattered most,” Darby shared. Seeking meaning in his career, having a passion for the health benefits of medical cannabis and the opening of Maryland’s dispensary process compelled him to apply for a medical cannabis dispensary license from the State of Maryland.
What was initially touted as a four-month process took over 15 months of effort and waiting. When his license finally was approved, Darby had to recommit to a “Start Up Life.” As the first dispensary in Maryland, PAH was setting precedent as they went – developing a business plan, raising private funds, obtaining inventory, and opening a dispensary with very limited capital. Darby acknowledged, “It was incredibly challenging and required a lot of perseverance.”
Within 6 months of opening their doors, the PAH team realized they were outgrowing their location. They scaled up from 50 to 300 patients a day and realized that they needed more than medical cannabis to meet patients’ diverse wellness goals. They needed a space that could house a variety of services in a single location. They needed to grow. So, they started to look for property to build a wellness campus.
Then came COVID-19.
PAH was deemed an essential business, but the global pandemic required significant shifts in their service delivery. Darby noted the upside to these initial challenges. Government regulations now allow curbside service for patients with proper documentation. This gives patients with mobility issues a more convenient way to obtain their medicine. Telemedicine is used for patient interaction. The PAH team can access experts from other states to consult in areas such as treatment options for specific breast cancer tumors. “It’s been exciting, to say the least,” Darby enthused.
The PAH team will soon open Peninsula Wellness a 9,400 square-foot holistic wellness campus located on Mt. Hermon Road in Salisbury. The business will be open to the public and house a variety of services in a safe, professional environment. Darby assured, “None of this could happen without support from our community partners like Ron Boltz of Alarm Engineering, Joey Gilkerson of NAI Coastal and Gillis Gilkerson Construction, and Minuteman Press to name a few.”
During the virtual tour, Darby explained that the secure medical cannabis dispensary is only a portion of the facility. There, patients require proper identification to enter and will be accompanied by a dispensary agent throughout the process.
The campus also offers private consultation rooms, a public facing retail room, and a spacious community room, all of which are wheelchair/mobility friendly. The retail room will sell over-the-counter CBD products, health supplements, performance enhancing products and wellness tools to address sleep issues, gut health, mental clarity and more.
The community room offers a multitude of educational and wellness activity opportunities for adults and youth. “We can host yoga, mindfulness, cooking classes, M.S. and Parkinson’s support groups here,” Darby explained. “It can be overwhelming to get online and look for wellness information. To be a local resource, a one-stop shop is something we’re really excited to bring to Salisbury.”