This week, the Maryland Medicinal Cannabis Commission (MMCC) approved its first licensed dispensary, but sales won’t begin for months.
As of now, qualified patients are able to place orders with the dispensary, The Wellness Institute of Maryland. “We are fully equipped to deliver medicine as soon as we have it,” said owner Michael Kline.
The delay in the production of medical cannabis is part of a series of blunders by the MMCC. It took the commission four years to award its first grower’s license, with another fourteen in the pre-approval stage. Accusations of racism against the commission led to lawsuits that temporarily halted the licensing process, after it was discovered that all fifteen of the cultivation licenses were awarded to white business owners. Eventually, the licensing process was allowed to continue, and ForwardGro was awarded the first license. They are expected to have their first crop ready by September.
Although growers are needed to meet the demand of Maryland patients, delays by the MMCC continue. Curio Wellness also applied for a cultivation license, but has received the runaround from the MMCC, who claimed Curio had not met a request for supplementary documentation.
Our state of the art facility is ready,” said Michael Bronfein, CEO of Curio Wellness.
“Every day the commission fails to provide our stage two license delays patients access to safe, reliable, and effective medicine.”
He added that Curio had already passed their state inspection last month.
In states with a regulated medical cannabis industry like Maryland, licenses for cultivation, processing, distribution and sales represent millions of dollars worth of business. Maryland state law stipulates that applicants have one calendar year to complete the approval process, for many applicants, that deadline is less than six weeks away. “The clock is ticking,” said Patrick Jameson, executive director of the MMCC. Jameson mentioned that the commission will convene more frequently in the coming weeks in order to speed up the process.
But this hasn’t satisfied patients and state officials. Some have called for a complete overhaul of the MMCC, and have even proposed replacing all members of the commission.
Almost 9000 patients have applied to the state’s medical cannabis program. Since state law allows licensed medical cannabis patients from other states to make purchases in Maryland, many more customers are expected. But less than 2 percent of physicians in the state have applied to recommend medical cannabis. In response, the state moved to allow other medical professionals to participate, such as dentists and nurse practitioners. About twenty of those professionals have applied.
Unlike other dispensaries, The Wellness Institute of Maryland will have more of a clinical setup, rather than a retail environment, where patients can consult with experts in an effort to support those who may have reservations about medical cannabis.”Many, if not most people, won’t be interested in our model,” said Kline. “They would like to go in like it’s a strip mall or a 7-Eleven.” Kline says his company is prepared to handle obstacle the commission may have between now and September.