After a lawsuit put a halt to licensing by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC), a judge has ordered that commission can now continue.
Alan Rifkin, an attorney representing 13 of the companies who received the preliminary approval stated,
“We are gratified by the Court’s swift disposition of the restraining order, thus allowing this critically important public health program to proceed.”
The lawsuit was filed by Alternative Medicine, who was not awarded a license, and they are alleging that the MMCC did not take ethnic diversity into account when selecting candidates. A judge had agreed to a temporary restraining order that suspended all licensing activities by the commission “on the grounds that irreparable harm will result to plaintiff in the form of loss of ability, once all licenses are issued.” A renewal of that restraining order was denied last Friday. Furthermore, the court will be hearing from those who were awarded licenses, which was requested by those companies who received preliminary licensing approval.
“The commission would be unwise to issue growers’ licenses, given that we remain fully confident that we will succeed on the merits under any circumstances, thereby invalidating the medical cannabis licensing process as it was conducted contrary to the law,” said Brian Brown, the attorney representing Alternative Medicine.
Of the 15 candidates who received preliminary approval, only one license has been awarded. It took four years for ForwardGro to receive official approval from the commission.
The MMCC is the lead agency of a new medical marijuana program that has been fraught with controversy. Under the state’s program, the commission is required to “actively seek to achieve racial, ethnic and geographic diversity when licensing medical cannabis growers.” But when the preliminary licenses were announced, it appeared that the highly-coveted grower’s licenses were awarded to white business owners. Governor Larry Hogan responded to the commission with a plea for racial diversity, after a failed attempt by the State General Assembly to mandate a certain number of licenses be granted to minority-owned cannabis growers. Members of the Black Caucus also attempted to shut down the commission start over with a fresh group of members, but was also unsuccessful.
The lack of diversity that is the basis of Alternative Medicine’s lawsuit could lead to a review of the MMCC’s board. Cheverly Police Chief Harry “Buddy” Robshaw III, a member of the MMCC who leads the subcommittee that awards licenses, has been the target of several lawsuits that include everything from wrongful termination to sexual assault and racial profiling. According to one such lawsuit, a former police officer claimed Robshaw said to members of the force,“if there is more than one black person in a car there is marijuana present and they should investigate.”
The MMCC has previously declined to reveal how they rated and selected applicants, and the lack of transparency drew criticism from lawmakers. A spokesperson for the MMCC said that it is “committed to ensuring that qualifying patients, the sick and suffering of Maryland, are provided with a process to receive the most safe and effective medicine in the timeliest manner possible.”