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.

The demand for concentrates is also a major factor in the CCC's analysis. The states hasn't created an edibles program, which will open the opportunity for more creative ways to make concentrates and tinctures to use for edibles, and for topical use. If similar to Colorado's, the demand for concentrates can be as high as 2.37 million grams per year.

The CCC recommends adding 10 more cultivation licenses, and to look at the need for more in the future. The largest concern expressed in the report is that patients will have to resort to the black market in order to meet their cannabis needs, putting them at unnecessary risk. The report also notes that if that were to happen, about $143.7 million would be lost to the black market, with the state losing about $8.6 million.

"Proper cannabis legalization is a very important cause to me and I want to ensure that the program is rolled out the right way the first go around," said Larisa Bolivar, executive director of the CCC, who is originally from the DC metro area and has family currently residing in Maryland.

"Maryland borders our nation's capital, and setting a good example for the rest of the nation to follow is not only very critical to cannabis's legitimacy as a medicine, but also as a legitimate medical program where patients can access a reliable and safe source of quality and affordable medical cannabis."

Maryland will see a flood of patients as soon as the state begins accepting registration applications, which will be six months prior to medical marijuana being available at licensed dispensaries.

The state allows physicians to write authorizations for any ailment that hasn't been treatable through conventional methods. Most critically, Maryland will be allowing non-residents to obtain certifications as long as they have qualifying conditions.

All of this will contribute to a shortage as soon as patients begin buying cannabis in early 2017, according to the CCC.

"If needs aren't meet, an already existing black market will be attractive to patients," the group noted. "Allowing for 10 more cultivation licenses can at least mitigate any potential problems of not meeting consumer demand, and at least give the state and patients a safety net while the program matures."