Medical cannabis was legalized in Maryland in April 2014, but recent legal challenges have caused the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission to threaten to postpone the implementation of the medical marijuana program for the state. The Commission is battling legal challenges after geographic and racial diversity decisions caused certain marijuana cultivators to be dropped from the list of pre-approved growers. Maryland’s process to pre-approve growers and begin issuing licenses has been stalled indefinitely while the Commission handles legal battles with the dropped growers.
The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission is currently handling a lawsuit with Green Thumb Industries and Maryland Cultivation and Processing. These two growers were removed from the list of pre-approved growers who were on track to be licensed by the state to cultivate medical marijuana. The companies are seeking a court ruling to award them license pre approvals once more. Before the court will address the companies’ complaints, it will first how the Commission and the Attorney General has blocked the companies from gaining information regarding the denial of their licenses.
The Plaintiffs, Green Thumb Industries and Maryland Cultivation and Processing, are protesting the Attorney General’s objections to the deposition testimony of the only member who voted against removing the companies from the preapproval list. If the court decides that the deliberative process does not apply in this instance, the public stands to gain access to a highly contested internal decision. The lawsuit is only one of the challenges the Commission is facing for the decisions.
The Commission has also been criticized by lawmakers for its pre-approval evaluation process. The original process failed to take diversity into account when selecting the limited number of pre-approved applicants. The Commission continues to defend its process, and maintains that the process is impartial and that the attorney general’s office had advised that state official must demonstrate a racial disparity in the industry before racial preference could be used in licensing. The Commission announced that they intend to employ a diversity consultant to advise them on a diversity study. Meanwhile, Maryland lawmakers are considering legislative approaches to the diversity issue in the medical cannabis industry.
A proposed measure, Senate Bill 0800, would allow another chance for growers who have been denied a license, by adding 5 more licenses and requiting the Commission to review applications that had been submitted on time, complete, and with all the necessary fees, but were not selected for the original list. This bill may give growers like Green Thumb Industries and Maryland Cultivation and Processing another chance at being preapproved for a license.
Another bill, Senate Bill 0999, seeks to dismantle the Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission and transfer the responsibility for the program to the Maryland Department of Health, similar to the system that is already in place in Pennsylvania. The Commission has denounced the bill as being a threat to the quality of the medical marijuana program. Other bills, such as House Bill 0487 and cross-filed Senate Bill 0276 are hoping that the Commission can be compelled to use new membership requirements that reflect the racial diversity of Maryland.
The legislative actions and lawsuits are slowing the process of licensing dispensaries and beginning to serve patients. Until these issues have been settled, it is possible that the program may be delayed indefinitely past the Commission’s timeline. The program was originally planned to be operational by the summer of 2017.
At Sacks Weston LLC, our Pennsylvania medical marijuana attorneys are proud advocates for the legalization of medical cannabis in all states. We are here to help protect patients as well as companies in the medical marijuana industry.