Maryland’s medical marijuana industry has been slow to take off, partially due to licensing decisions and questions about diversity in how licenses were awarded. Four years after the state passed medical marijuana legislation, licenses are being approved and cultivation can commence immediately.
So far, 6500 patients have signed up for the program, and 276 physicians have registered with the state to recommend cannabis to patients. “A new industry in Maryland has been officially launched,” said Patrick Jameson, executive director of the commission.
“Medical cannabis production will change the face of Maryland and will have a profound economic and health impact on the entire region.”
Fifteen growers had received an initial approval by the commission in August 2015. But there were questions about the diversity of those applicants, some of which came from Governor Larry Hogan. There are now pending lawsuits regarding how the commission awarded licenses, one of which requests a freeze on approving new applicants.
MaryMed LLC was removed from the list of 15 applicants, due to its failure to provide documentation pertaining to its parent company, Vireo Health. The Minnesota-based company is under federal investigation after it transported $500,000 worth of cannabis oil to New York, crossing state lines. “We have deep concerns about today’s decision and will contest it vigorously,” said Eddie Pounds, a lawyer representing the company.
For one of the very first applicants, the license approval is the result of a 5-year effort to legalize medical marijuana. “The patients of Maryland will finally have an opportunity to try this medicine that could help tens of thousands of people,” said Gail Rand, CFO of ForwardGro. Rand’s son Logan has epileptic seizures, and ForwardGro will be growing a strain specifically to treat his condition.
The company is helmed by Gary Mangum, owner of Maryland’s largest greenhouse operation and a significant donor to Governor Larry Hogan. Its investors have backgrounds in the political and law enforcement communities, which can be critical in navigating the heavily-regulated medical marijuana industry.
Maryland has been slow to provide access to medical marijuana patients since legalizing it four years ago. The bill put the burden of distribution on research groups within the academic community, but no one was willing to undertake such a complex task. The state realized a year later that this model was ill-advised, and took it upon themselves to form a regulatory agency to manage the complicated licensing process and the approval of patients in the program.
“We’re glad to see that Maryland regulators are finally getting medicine into the hands of patients, who have been waiting too long,”
said Kate Bell, a lawyer with the Marijuana Policy Project.
According to the chairman of the Maryland Wholesale Medical Cannabis Trade Association Jake Van Wingerden, cannabis businesses with approved licenses could be up and running in as little as 30 days. After four years of waiting, patients will finally be able to acquire medical cannabis within the state.
“This is the most delightful part of being on this commission,” said Commissioner Saundra Washington. “To see this day finally come to fruition is extremely emotional for those of us who have advocated for this.”