The first two people that chef and restaurateur Jeff Black consulted before he officially decided to get in the medical cannabis business were his kids, then 12 and 13.
“I sat them down, and I said, ‘I’m not going to do this if there’s going to be some stigma against you in school. I’m not going to do this if you’re going to carry some burden,'” Black says.
But as he talked through it, his youngest son started spouting off medical data about the benefits of cannabis. “I was like, ‘Where do you know that from?’ He’s like, ‘I want to be a doctor, dad. I know everything,'” Black recalls. “He was the one who was like, ‘You need to do this. You should do this. This is important.'”
Black is now a partner in Doctor’s Orders, one of Maryland’s newly licensed medical cannabis companies. Mackie Barch, the son of one of Black’s longtime regulars, helped get the restaurateur involved. He thought Black’s business acumen made him a good fit—and if they were ever allowed to produce edibles, those culinary skills could certainly come in handy. Now after more than three years of navigating new regulations, the company just got the green light to begin growing cannabis plants at a cultivation center in Cambridge, Maryland. Black expects they’ll have the first crop by the end of the year.
Black had always felt that it was kind of hypocritical that marijuana was demonized, while beer is advertised all over the Super Bowl. Still, he says he wasn’t totally comfortable with the idea of getting professionally involved with it at first. He worried that it might have a negative impact on his restaurants, which include Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, BlackSalt, Addie’s, and others. “We’ll be looking like outlaws, or we’ll be looking like criminals,” he recalls thinking.