Maryland’s MMJ Program Finally Getting Off Ground After Long Delay

After a more than 2-year delay, Maryland’s medical marijuana program is on its way to being operational, as the state’s medical cannabis commission has pre-approved a selection of 30 growers and processors.

Maryland’s medical marijuana program appears to be finally moving forward after the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission recently announced it had selected the growers and processors that were pre-approved for licenses.

Medical marijuana was legalized in Maryland in 2014 after Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law House Bill 881. The law went into effect June 1 of that year, but the state has yet to get the program up and running.

The commission selected 15 growers and 15 processors from the 146 grower applications and 124 processor applications. Each application was evaluated by the Towson University Regional Economic Studies Institute, and based on factors like experience and security, given a score. The names of the approved companies were announced on the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission site.

The 30 companies that were awarded stage one pre-approvals now move onto the next round, during which growers must cultivate a variety of strains ranging in cannabinoid content and processors will have to manufacture a variety of cannabis-infused products containing high and low CBD and THC extracts. The companies will also undergo background checks and a facility inspection before a license is formally approved.

“Now that the Commissioners have made their selections, the real work begins for these companies. We will implement a rigorous Stage Two background and financial due diligence process for these entities prior to issuing a license,” said Patrick Jameson, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission’s Executive Director. “A pre-approval is not a license. I truly look forward to facilitating this nascent state wide industry and working with local, city, and county jurisdictions and with the principals of these organizations.”

Maryland officials had hoped to have the medical marijuana program operating by the second half of 2016, but the influx of applicants caused a delay. Officials are now hoping to have final dispensary storefronts open by mid-2017.

The commission still needs to announce the dispensary application winners, which it has said it will do this September. The state received 811 dispensary applications and could award up to 109 licenses.

Under the law, approved patients can possess up to 120 grams, or approximately four ounces, of medical cannabis at one time. The list of approved conditions under the law includes severe or persistent muscle spasms, seizures, severe nausea, severe or chronic pain, anorexia, cachexia or wasting syndrome, and “any other condition that is severe and for which medical treatments have been ineffective if the symptoms reasonably can be expected to be relieved by medical marijuana.” A licensed physician must recommend patients medical marijuana.

The 2016 Marijuana Business Factbook predicts that Maryland cannabis sales could reach $20 million to $40 million in the first year following the opening of dispensaries. The report, published in March, estimates that the state’s market could potentially reach into the hundreds of millions.

Find more about Maryland’s cannabis laws on our education page.