The first availability of Maryland-licensed medical marijuana appears likely to be in November, a couple months later than the state government’s earlier forecast of “late summer.”
On July 6, Gov. Larry Hogan appointed nine new Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission members, and reappointed one member. Hogan’s appointees collectively comprise a majority of the 16-member Commission.
As of July 11, only one grower and one dispensary had gotten final or “Stage II” license approval from MMCC. The MMCC website said from March through May that the Commission’s target date for first availability was “late summer.”
Forward Gro in Anne Arundel County received its final grower license May 17, said MMCC executive director Patrick Jameson. Forward Gro is owned by Gary Magnum and Mike McCarthy, co-founders of Bell Nurseries, the state’s largest ornamental flower greenhouse operation.
Other growers should be fully licensed soon, and begin cultivation. Philip Goldberg, CEO of Green Leaf Medical, told the Sentinel that its Frederick County facility “is 98 percent complete, and we expect to receive a final license in three weeks.” Following planting and growing, Green Leaf will be able to “put product on the shelves in November.”
Curio Wellness in Baltimore County had its application for full licensure delayed on July 5 for some additional data. Holistic Industries has finished building its 72,000- square-foot facility in Capitol Heights, which will accommodate both growing and processing. If it receives full licensure soon, its product could be in dispensaries in November.
Goldberg, also president of the Maryland Cannabis Industry Association, added, “I do not believe [any grower] will have product available prior to November…. Before the end of the year, there will be ample supply in the marketplace.”
In August 2016, MMCC granted preliminary licenses to 15 growers and 15 processors. The preliminary licenses gave growers and processors one year—until Aug. 15, 2017—to get fully licensed. The biggest step in winning such approval is building out their facilities. The Commission’s Jameson said that MMCC inspectors are busy conducting final inspections, background investigations, and financial due diligence. Goldberg and Jameson agreed that MMCC is handling full licensure applications efficiently.
Only when fully licensed can growers begin to grow plants. Marijuana has a 3-to-4 month growing cycle to full-grown plant.
As of July 11, there were no finally licensed processors. Jameson explained that processors are not absolutely essential to the supply process because “a dispensary can buy directly from a grower.” As a matter of practice, however, processors will very likely be the primary sources of supply for dispensaries. Processors prepare the plants for smoking and other forms of consumption, including the many valueadded formulations available in some other states. The Forward Gro website lists some of them: concentrates, cartridges, oils, tinctures, suppositories, capsules, and topical applications.
Jameson indicated that some growers and processors with preliminary licenses may not make the Aug. 15 deadline for final licensure. A key upcoming decision of the Commission will be whether to waive that deadline and give preliminary licensees more time to complete the process. Goldberg said, “I am very pleased with Gov. Hogan’s new appointments to the Commission. The new commissioners appear very well qualified for their positions, and will help the program move forward.”
As a strong sign of market potential, Goldberg noted that 9,000 patients statewide have registered with MMCC, months before there is medicine available. However, the MMCC website indicated that as of July 11, only about 300 physicians have registered.
Jameson noted that dispensaries must use Maryland-grown product and “all business must be conducted within the state. It is illegal [under federal law],” he explained, “to transport cannabis across state lines.”
Further, Jameson noted, “Maryland does not have reciprocity with” any state or DC. Once the medical cannabis process is fully working, he said, citing regulations, a patient not living in Maryland could register with MMCC with a physician certification and a “bona-fide physician patient relationship.”
Last August, MMCC also granted preliminary or Stage I licenses to 102 dispensaries, including at least two in each of 47 state legislative districts. Unlike growers and processors, dispensaries are not under a one-year clock to convert to final licenses.
MMCC granted the first final dispensary license July 5 to Wellness Solutions in Frederick. Owner Michael Kline said that, while Wellness has no cannabis to sell because of the licensing situation with growers and processors, it is opening its doors for “pre-orders,” although the process is extremely expensive for the company.