Maryland

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Maryland: Expungement Bill Becomes Law Minus Governor's Signature

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By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

On May 27, legislation permitting certain marijuana offenders to petition for an expungement of criminal convictions became law, without Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's signature.

Senate Bill 949, sponsored by Senator William C. Smith, Jr. of District 20, permits individuals previously convicted of a marijuana possession an opportunity to petition to have their criminal record expunged.

In 2014, the Maryland legislature decriminalized offenses involving the possession of up to ten grams of cannabis.

Maryland: First Licensed Medical Marijuana Grow Operation Approved

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By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

On Wednesday, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, the commission that oversees Maryland’s fledgling medical cannabis program, voted to approve the state’s first full license to grow cannabis for medicinal purposes.

The Stage 2 license, which was awarded to ForwardGro LLC, is a final approval from regulators for the cultivation of plants. The approved business will have to wait for dispensaries to be inspected and licensed before it can sell cannabis products to approved patients to comply with state law.

Gail Rand, chief financial officer and patient advocate for ForwardGro, said: “The patients of Maryland will finally have an opportunity to try this medicine that could help tens of thousands of people.”

Rand, whose son suffers from epilepsy, became passionately involved in the Maryland legislature in 2013 as a parent advocate. She is the founder of a parental advocacy group for the legalization of medical cannabis in Maryland for children with epilepsy.

“A new industry in Maryland has been officially launched,” said Patrick Jameson, Executive Director of the commission, "They can start to grow immediately. Medical cannabis production will change the face of Maryland and will have a profound economic and health impact on the entire region.”

Maryland: Governor Orders Medical Marijuana Industry Diversity Study

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has ordered a study into whether minorities are at a disadvantage when trying to obtain business licenses for the state's medical marijuana program. The study will be coordinated by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs, and the Department of Transportation.

The governor wants the study to be completed as soon as possible, according to Jimmy H. Rhee, special secretary of minority affairs.

“As the issue of promoting diversity is of great importance to me and my administration, your office should begin this process immediately in order to ensure opportunities for minority participation in the industry,” Hogan wrote in the directive to Rhee.

Two lawsuits are currently pending against the MMCC by minority-led companies over denials of their business license applications.

Maryland: House Fails To Pass Amended Bill Adding Five Medical Marijuana Cultivation Licenses

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A plan to add five medical marijuana cultivation licenses in Maryland was defeated in the House of Delegates after Republican lawmakers delayed the vote right up until midnight, which marked the official end of the legislative session. The measure was pushed by Legislative Black Caucus chairwoman Del. Cheryl Glenn as part of her efforts to create equity in the state’s medical marijuana licensing program.

The bill was passed last week, but was returned to lawmakers for amendments. The revised bill did not receive another vote by the full House, which was required for its survival.

Glenn has called on legislative leaders to hold a special one-day session specifically to consider the measure. “It’s not important to me what the speaker’s reasons or justifications were,” Glenn said in the report. “What is important is to understand where this leaves the black community: It leaves us outside of the medical cannabis industry, and that is absolutely unacceptable.”

The legislation would have put an end to lawsuits against the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission by minority-owned medical cannabis companies who say the commission did not follow the law which requires regulators to “actively seek and achieve” racial and ethnic diversity in the industry.

Maryland: Registration For Marijuana Patients And Caregivers Begins

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Patients and potential caregivers in Maryland can now sign up for medical marijuana licenses with a doctor’s approval that they meet one of the qualifying conditions under the law.

Registration began yesterday for those whose last names start with the letters A through L; registration for those whose last names start with the letters M through Z will begin on Apr. 17; and open registration begins on Apr. 24.

“Medical cannabis is currently not available in the state of Maryland,” the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission website states. “The industry is still being constructed and we expect availability by the end of summer 2017 depending on industry progress. The Commission will make a public announcement once medical cannabis becomes available to the public.”

Maryland: Officials Warn Of Medical Marijuana Scammers

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Scammers are taking advantage of medical marijuana patients in Maryland that are still months away from being able to legally obtain cannabis, according to industry officials and regulators.

There are reports of companies selling "marijuana cards" or offering exams to "preapprove" medical marijuana patients.

Officials say neither of these is legitimate.

“They are telling patients that they have the ability to preapprove them for the medical cannabis program, and that is a lie,” said Darrell Carrington, executive director of the Maryland Cannabis Industry Association. “There is no such thing as preapproval.”

No physicians in Maryland have yet been authorized to issue certifications for legal medical marijuana. The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has issued preliminary licenses to businesses to grow and dispense marijuana, but none have received final licenses or begun operation.

“We know there are already attempts at fake patient identification cards being promulgated,” Patrick Jameson, executive director of the commission, said in a statement. “This type of fraudulent activity preys against the most vulnerable people in society and we will do everything possible to stop this behavior. Only patient identification cards issued by the Commission are legitimate. At this point no ID cards have been issued.”

Maryland: Medical Marijuana Commission Awards Preliminary Dispensary Licenses

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has received 882 dispensary license applications, and has awarded licenses to 102 dispensaries so far, a WBAL-TV report states. Officials also said they were in the process of hiring a diversity consultant to address the lack of diversity claims in the licensing process.

“The commission is in the process and plans to hire an expert consultant who specializes in minority business affairs to do a disparity evaluation and provide future guidance on minority business enterprise initiatives and make recommendations to the commission,” Patrick Jameson, executive director of the commission, said in the report.

Members of the Black Legislative Caucus made allegations that the commission had “ignored race and ethnicity throughout the licensing process in clear contravention of its authorizing statute,” which led to the decision to add a diversity consultant.

The agency has met with members of the Black Legislative Caucus and the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs to discuss the concerns of stakeholders.

Commissioner Paul Davies says the program has experienced delays, but only because of its early success.

“This program has had more applications that we are aware of than any other state in the country,” he said.

Massachusetts: Elizabeth Warren Joins Fellow Senators Asking For Update On Marijuana Classification

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has signed on to a letter asking the Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice for an update on their decision to reclassify marijuana at the federal level.

Currently, marijuana is classified as a "Schedule I" drug under the Controlled Substances Act. The classification is for "drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."

The DEA and other agencies earlier this year said they plan to release a determination in the first half of 2016 on re-scheduling marijuana.

"While we appreciate the DEA's willingness to maintain an open dialogue with our offices, we are concerned that 'the first half of 2016' is coming to a close and no rescheduling announcement has been made," the letter from Warren, D-Mass., and others said.

"We continue to believe that the rescheduling of marijuana and the resolution of other regulatory barriers to research is a time-sensitive matter that requires immediate action," the senators added.

In addition to Warren, the senators include Ed Markey, D-Mass.; Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland; Barbara Boxer, D-California; Ron Wyden, D-Oregon; Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York; and Cory Booker, D-New Jersey.

Maryland: More Than 900 Pounds Of Marijuana Found In Van During Traffic Stop

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Two Philadelphia men are facing charges after Maryland State Police troopers found more than 900 pounds of marijuana during a traffic stop on Interstate 95.

The officers stopped a U-Haul van in Elkton Monday night on an exit ramp from I-95 to Route 279 for a traffic violation, according to media outlets.

Police say a drug detection dog alerted troopers leading to a search which yielded 938 pounds of marijuana in the cargo hold, estimated to have a street value of more than $5 million.

Police report they've charged the driver and passenger, Baolie Chen and Da Fen Xiong, both 23-year-olds, with possession of a controlled dangerous substance, possession of more than 50 pounds of marijuana, and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

Maryland: Baltimore Ravens Cut Eugene Monroe, Mention His Marijuana Advocacy

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Baltimore Ravens released offensive tackle Eugene Monroe Wednesday, mentioning his outspoken marijuana advocacy on their website afterwards.

“Monroe had surgery to repair a torn labrum (shoulder) this offseason, and used the time off to become the first active NFL player to openly campaign for the use of medical marijuana. The Ravens did not rally behind the cause,” the Ravens’ website says.

After that, the Ravens’ site included a quote from head coach John Harbaugh, saying, “I promise you, he does not speak for the organization."

There usually are more than one reason when a player is cut. Monroe was due a $6.5 million salary this year and had a history of injuries.

But Monroe's outspoken push for the NFL to consider changing its position on marijuana is probably one of thee reasons for him getting dropped.

That would be unfortunate if true. Players should be able to speak their mind when it comes to matters of public policy without it costing their position in the organization.

Maryland: Baltimore Ravens' Monroe Makes Big Donation To Marijuana Research

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Baltimore Ravens tackle Eugene Monroe, ever the outspoken marijuana advocate, has donated $80,000 to a group researching medical marijuana at Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania.

The study is looking into possible marijuana-related therapies for current and former NFL players.

The press release from The Realm of Caring and CW Botanicals said Monroe: “cannot use cannabinoid products and is instead prescribed opioids to manage his chronic pain from sports-related injuries. He recognizes the benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) for pain management and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and fully supports this research that could help professional and amateur athletes as well as anyone suffering from neurodegenerative diseases. Eugene hopes that his actions will influence the NFL in changing their policy on cannabis and recognize it as a viable treatment option.

“Due to the NFL’s strict anti-cannibas policies, it’s difficult for current players to speak in support of the plant and its potential therapeutic uses. Despite the risks, on March 9 Eugene became the first active NFL player to call on the NFL to remove marijuana from the banned substances list; fund medical marijuana research, especially as it relates to CTE; and to urge the NFL to stop overprescribing opioids.”

Maryland: Marijuana Trafficking Ringleader Sentenced To Nearly 16 Years

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A federal judge sentenced a convicted Maryland marijuana dealer to nearly 16 years in prison Monday.

Matthew Nicka, 43, of Baltimore was sentenced to 188 months in prison and five years of probation for his role as a ringleader in a huge drug trafficking ring. He is also ordered to pay a $15 million judgment.

He and his wife Gretchen Peterson were arrested in August 2013 in Canada on a 2010 indictment. Co-conspirator David D'Amico was extradited from Columbia. Both have been convicted.

A search warrant was executed on Nicka's home in Baltimore in March 2009, when agents seized more than 80 pounds of marijuana, $20,000 in cash, 31 cell phones, documentation for a $450,000 plane purchase, tally sheets showing $14.5 million in drug sales, four money counters and fake IDs.

Prosecutors say the trio and co-conspirators transported marijuana from California and Canada to warehouses in Maryland by train, plane, and tractor trailer, where it was divided for distribution in Maryland and elsewhere.

Maryland: Senate Passes Bill To Expand List Of Who Can Recommend Medical Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Yesterday, the Maryland Senate passed House Bill 104 Medical Cannabis- Written Certifications-Certifying Providers by a vote of 36-10.

Governor Larry Hogan (R) is expected to sign the legislation, which will allow dentists, podiatrists, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives to provide written certification for medical marijuana to qualifying patients. The law currently only allows physicians to prescribe the drug.

These additional medical providers would be required to have an active, unrestricted license, be in good standing with their respective board, and have a state contolled dangerous substances (CDS) registration in order to qualify to be a provider.

Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, commended the Maryland General Assembly, saying "I am pleased to see the Maryland legislature recognizing that medical cannabis therapies should be an option for all medical professionals in treating their patients.”

If Gov. Hogan signs the legislation, Maryland would join at least two other states that have a more inclusive approach to the types of licensed health care providers who can make written recommendations under their state’s medical cannabis program.

Maryland: Legislature Overrides Veto Of Bill To Fix Marijuana Decrim Law

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53% of Maryland voters support regulating marijuana like alcohol, according to new Gonzales Research poll

The Maryland House and Senate voted 86-55 and 29-17, respectively, on Thursday to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill intended to fix the state’s marijuana decriminalization law.

SB 517, introduced by Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), removes criminal penalties for possession of marijuana paraphernalia. The measure also imposes a new civil fine of up to $500 on public cannabis consumption.

Gov. Hogan vetoed the bill in May 2015, after it was approved 32-13 in the Senate and 83-53 in the House of Delegates.

Maryland adopted a law in 2014 that was intended to decriminalize simple marijuana possession, but it did not include marijuana paraphernalia.

A new poll released on Thursday shows that the majority of Maryland voters support broader cannabis policy reform. A statewide survey of 818 registered voters conducted by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies found 53 percent favor a change in Maryland law to allow marijuana to be regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. Only 43 percent were opposed.

The poll was conducted Jan. 11-16 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent. The full results are available at www.mpp.org/Md2016poll.

Maryland: More Cultivation Licenses Could Avoid Medical Marijuana Shortage

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A cannabis consumer advocacy and watchdog organization with offices in Maryland has issued a report ahead of the state's anticipated summer rollout of their medical marijuana program, asking policymakers to increase the amount of cultivation licenses.

After reviewing and analyzing consumption data in states with legal marijuana programs, and comparing that data to the potential number of patients, the Cannabis Consumers Coalition (CCC) calculated a potential shortage of 41,066 pounds, even if plants are grown under ideal conditions.

Maryland expects 125,000 patients to register, about 15,000 more than are registered in Colorado, which has hundreds of cultivation facilities. Maryland has a higher population than Colorado, and allows for more medical conditions to qualify for medical marijuana authorizations. In addition, Maryland accepts out-of-state patients.

These factors could result in several thousand more people registering as medicinal cannabis patients. "In comparison to Colorado, which has about 600,000 less people than Maryland, 15 cultivation centers seems very low," according to the CCC.

The report assumes that the currently allowed 15 cultivation licenses will be for substantially sized cannabis grows that are consistently high-yielding. Maryland hasn't issued licenses, so there's no way of knowing the square footage of proposed cultivation centers.

Maryland: Medical Marijuana Sales Probably Won't Start Until 2017

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Patients who need to buy marijuana for medicinal purposes in Maryland are probably going to have to wait until 2017 -- nearly four years after the state made it legal.

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission on Monday announced it won't award licenses to grow and process marijuana until sometime next summer, and industry officials said it would take another four to six months after than for cannabis to be ready to sell, reports Fenit Nirappil at The Washington Post.

The commission doesn't even have a target date for allowing retail dispensaries to start operation, and cannot say when cannabis will be available to patients.

The Maryland Legislature approved the medical marijuana program back in 2013, but adjusted it multiple times before applications could even be submitted.

The commission said this year it would start issuing licenses in January 2016, but abandoned that timetable last month after getting more than a thousand applications for people who want to be marijuana producers or dispensers.

Several prospective growers have already bought land and are leasing buildings so they can launch quickly if they are awarded licenses.

Maryland: Industry Training For Medical Cannabis Applicants Set For Oct. 12

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Leading Cannabis Consumer Safety and Regulatory Compliance Experts Offer Networking and Education Opportunity

The Patient Focused Certification (PFC) program on October 12 will host a Maryland application preparation event for applicants seeking licenses to operate medical cannabis cultivation, processing or dispensary locations in Maryland. This event will consist of a networking reception followed by an educational workshop with industry experts on Maryland’s application process and best practices to meet regulatory requirements.

The Maryland Cannabis Commission began accepting applications on September 28. The commission will issue 15 licenses for cultivation, up to 92 for dispensaries, and an unlimited number for processors.

Maryland has adopted the American Herbal Product Association's (AHPA) Recommendations for Regulators, which require businesses to meet staff training requirements, and robust product safety protocols; undergo rigorous on-site compliance audits; implement lot and batch tracking; and adhere to all local and state regulatory requirements.

“PFC is hosting this event to prepare Maryland’s cannabis industry to meet regulatory requirements and strengthen the commitment of industry professionals to provide quality care and safe medicine to patients,” said PFC Director Kristin Nevedal.

Maryland: Attorney General Says Counties Can't Ban Medical Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

For some odd reason, Republican Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh is on a mission to prevent medical marijuana patients from having safe access to their medicine -- despite the fact that it's now legal in Maryland.

Schuh this week vowed to press forward with an effort to prohibit medical marijuana facilities in the county despite a letter from the Maryland Attorney General's Office stating that counties cannot ban operations allowed by state law, reports Rema Rahman at The Baltimore Sun.

The bill backed by Schuh would prohibit not only dispensaries but even individual patients from growing, processing or dispensing medical marijuana in all zoning classifications.

The advice was issued on Tuesday by the Attorney General's Office in response to a Democratic Baltimore County state senator who slammed Schuh's plan to ban safe access.

The nonbinding legal advice, signed by Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Rowe, says state law allows counties to decide where medical marijuana may be grown, processed and dispensed, but does not permit local jurisdictions to outright ban facilities "unless a situation unique to that county makes one or more types of facilities inappropriate."

Maryland: Dr. Sue Sisley Lectures At Walter Reed National Hospital On PTSD, Cannabis

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Dr. Sue Sisley on Tuesday will lead a clinical lecture on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and cannabis as part of the 5th Annual Pain Care Skills Training at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Research has indicated that cannabis has tremendous therapeutic potential to treat PTSD and pain-related symptoms of many medical conditions. The Pain Care Skills Training is a four-day event that includes hands-on trainings, lectures and roundtable discussions on best-practice models of treatment, and evolving solutions to meet the needs of pain care within the military, hosted by the National Capital Region Pain Initiative.

"The military has historically been a leader in adopting new medical practices far ahead of the larger medical community," said Dr. Sisley. "It's an honor to be able to help educate these highly dedicated medical professionals about medical cannabis and PTSD."

Earlier this year, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Veterans Equal Access Amendment by a margin of 18-12, which would allow Veterans Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical cannabis if they are in a state that has a medical cannabis program. Under current policy, veterans who receive treatment from a physician outside of the VA are able to access medical cannabis if they live in state with a medical cannabis program.

Maryland: ASA To Provide Training For Medical Marijuana Compliance Inspectors

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Americans for Safe Access (ASA) on Wednesday announced it has been selected to provide training for compliance inspectors operating under the authority of the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

The auditors are charged with ensuring members of the state’s new medical cannabis industry comply with all applicable regulations, which were finalized by the Commission in August.

In addition to developing its own rigorous compliance protocols, Maryland has adopted the American Herbal Product Association’s (AHPA) Recommendations to Regulators in the areas of cultivation, distribution and manufacturing. AHPA’s guidelines offer seed-to-consumption product safety and quality control measures that will ensure rigid oversight of the state’s medical cannabis industry.

Auditor training will be offered through the Patient Focused Certification (PFC) program, a project of ASA with extensive experience training members of the cannabis industry to meet strict regulatory compliance guidelines. PFC has trained thousands of employees of the medical cannabis industry and is currently under contract with the District of Columbia to train all medical cannabis staff to achieve comprehensive regulatory compliance.

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