Maryland: Medical Marijuana Sales Probably Won't Start Until 2017
By Steve Elliott
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.
While some prospective businesses may not be able to afford the wait, those that are well-funded shouldn't be threatened, claimed Darrell Carrington, executive director of the Maryland Cannabis Industry Association.
“Obviously our members are concerned about the length of the time,” Carrington said. “However, we do understand we have to get this right and not just done quickly.”
In October, Sarah Vogeley and her 10-year-old son, who has epilepsy, rejoined her husband and two older children in Charlottesville, Va., after having moved to Colorado, where medical marijuana is available to children. They thought they'd be able to legally access cannabis through Maryland's out-of-state patient provisions, but Vogeley on Monday said she now plans to take her son back to Colorado, leaving behind her ailing father and once again splitting up her family.
"We just simply can't wait this long," Vogeley said, breaking into tears.
Maryland has gotten 146 applications to grow marijuana, 124 to process it and 811 dispensary applications. Some businesses have applied to open dispensaries in multiple districts; about 200 business entities in all are seeking dispensary licenses.
Applications are reviewed and scorted by the Regional Economic Studies Institute of Towson Univesity. Third-party experts also assess various factors, including horticultural expertise, security measures and "financial stability" (which, of course, means the deck is stacked for wealthy individuals to control the business, surprise, surprise).
“We have a wonderful wealth of applications to evaluate, and we are going to have exceptional professionals, and now we have to do our due diligence,” said Hannah Byron, the commission’s executive director. Byron is stepping down in January, and no successor has been named.